14:31 Wednesday 25 June 2014

MP Jim Paice speaks up over UK's food shortages

Written byJORDAN DAY

MP Sir Jim Paice. MP Sir Jim Paice.

MP Sir Jim Paice has spoken out over the UK’s food shortages and says too many renewable energy schemes are being built on agricultural land.

Sir Jim, who is MP for South East Cambridgeshire and the former food and farming minister, chaired a panel of government and industry stakeholders concerned with meeting future demands on UK agricultural land.

The event, held at the British Academy in London today (Wednesday, June 25), saw the launch of a report, The Best Use of UK Agricultural Land, which was produced by the Cambridge-hosted Natural Capital Leaders Platform in collaboration with Asda, Sainsbury’s, Nestlé, AB Agri, Volac as well as the National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association.

The report warns that by 2030, the UK could require up to seven million hectares of additional land to meet a growing population’s food, space and renewable energy needs, while increasing the area needed to protect nature and its services.

Sir Jim said: “There are no prizes in politics for saying ‘I told you so’, but this report says everything that I would expect, and I wish it had been available to me when I was in the Government.

“It should be a wake-up call to all politicians that we cannot take our land or our food for granted.

“We have all grown up with our mouths full, and only those over 70 can remember any real shortages of food.

“For most of us it has been a life of increasing choice in a competitive market keeping price rises in check and for much of the time at below the inflation rate.”

The report focuses on the competing demands for land, and the need for Government departments and industry to work together to form a coherent and long-term strategy in order to optimise UK land use.

Sir Jim said: “In my view, it is absurd that we use arable land to meet bioenergy targets under the DECC 2050 Pathways analysis.

“In my constituency, prime grades one and two arable land is growing maize after maize; bad for biodiversity, bad for soils and bad for food production.

“I don’t hear the anti-meat brigade criticising this, yet all an AD plant is is a giant rumen and if feeding grain to cattle is inefficient what about using it in AD?

“Solar farms are also leading to a loss of prime agricultural land, with the Department for Energy and Climate Change aiming for solar power to supply about 15 per cent of green electricity needs by 2020.

“In my view, solar farms should instead be set up on top of large, empty rooftops in industrial estates or on plots of unproductive brownfield land.”

Andrew Montague-Fuller, programme manager at CISL, and author of the report, said: “In this initial analysis, we identified a significant gap between additional land demand and potential supply, as well as a worrying lack of clarity about what agricultural land is expected to deliver.

“It is clear that more research is needed, and that business, government, farmers and landowners need to work together to ensure we can meet these growing demands, while also protecting the environment.”

To see the full report, go to www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/Business-Platforms/Natural-Capital-Leaders-Platform.aspx.

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