Over a number of weeks and months this blog has reviewed our economic health, in a three-part series, Our economic health, on the national debt, budget deficit and inflation [enter Our economic health into the search box to find them and other similar stuff].
Over a similar period I thought I’d look at the potential for improving our economy. The prompt for choosing food production as the first topic is the conjunction of the contents of the memsahib’s shopping basket and some recent high-value reports. In the mem’s basket were rhubarb from Holland, Little Gem lettuce, and green pak choi from Spain.
There’s certainly room to increase food production in the UK, as this table shows. There are numerous reasons for increasing UK food production apart from the purely economic, discussed in great detail in these recent reports:
- The Future of Food & Farming – a Foresight report to the government Office for Science
- The UK in context of NW Europe – a Foresight report case study
- Food Security – a food-related resource website
- The future of food - the leader on the Economist’s special report on
Which describe the issues around global food production as not lessening, but increasing and increasing in their intensity. They mention rising world food prices, increasing demand from an increasing world population, impacts on scarce resources – land, water, bio-diversity loss, and energy, and impacts on climate change, all as factors.
Improving our agricultural production will help our economy. Improving best practice in UK farming leads to lower food imports, and increased investment in agro-biological research will improve crop yields, and will give us technology to export. All the above reports stress the importance of technological improvement as a key element in solving the problems of providing enough food.
I bet there’s one story about our agricultural research expertise that you didn’t know about. It’s in one of the articles’ in the Economist’s report on Feeding the World – The 9-billion people question.
There’s a 1.6-hectare (4-acre) field in the centre of Rothamsted Research farm. This field – called Broadbalk – is part of their long-term research studies, and as the article mentions,
“Broadbalk is no ordinary field. The first experimental crop of winter wheat was sown there in the autumn of 1843, and for the past 166 years the field, part of the Rothamsted Research station, has been the site of the longest-running continuous agricultural experiment in the world. Now different parts of the field are sown using different practices, making Broadbalk a microcosm of the state of world farming.”
So, there you have it. One part of our economy that can provide growth, as long as we do two things, improve farming practice and invest in research and technology. We done it before, with Jethro Tull’s seed drill in 1701.
There’s plenty of food for thought for you here in all of these reports.