The UK’s food trade deficit . . . & Brexit

In 2014, Defra’s annual stats reported our food trade deficit was £26.8bn; the UK imported £39.6bn of agri-food products, and exported £12.8bn.

This large deficit, as well as other food issues, means Brexit trade negotiations in the agri-food sector will be as difficult if not more difficult than in other sectors, and will have a big impact on all of us. (See, for example, the House of Lords Farming: Impact of Brexit Q&A in Hansard; do pay particular attention to Lord Thomas’ account of Andrea Leadsom’s remarks.)

It’s highly likely there will be significant price increases which will disproportionally affect people living on low budgets, and many of us may well have to make significant changes in our diet — and not necessarily for the better.

It’s not just our imports that will be affected our lives. Our £12.8bn exports could rapidly decline with brexit, and some sectors may well be eliminated; for example, 38% of all lamb produced in the UK goes to Europe.

Indeed, our agri-food exports over the last decade have doubled because of the increased market access owing to our membership of the EU (UK food and drink export statistics, FDF, 2014).

Tim Lang recently wrote these words in an article released by City University How Brexit threaten’s British food security:

The UK doesn’t feed itself. It has dropped to 61% self-sufficiency, Defra reported last month. The UK has quietly become a “neo-imperialist” food economy, using other people’s land and low wage labour to feed people while consumers subsidise rich landowners and keep their land values high. The UK gets 30% of UK food from the EU. That rises to 40% for horticultural produce, of which consumers eat too little for health.

What Professor Lang doesn’t say in his article is that it would be difficult — and require a dramatic change in diet, for us to have much higher than 61% self-sufficiency. More turnips, anyone?


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