Or more accurately, today is the day the food would have run out if we had to rely solely on homegrown produce says the National Farmers' Union.

That's because food grown in this country only makes up 62% of all of the food eaten here [1].

That ties in with an assessment by Global Food Security that Britain imports 40% of the total food consumed.

This figure seems quite worrying on both a trade and security basis when compared to 1991 when we were 75% self sufficient in food and both bodies believe this proportion of imported food is going to continue rising.

But on a historical basis this may not be quite such the worry that it is being portrayed as.

A DEFRA report back in July 2008 points out that the UK is currently more self sufficient than it was either before or after the Second World War. More information on British food self-sufficiency over the years is shown in the table below.

Table of UK Food self-sufficiency

UK Food self-sufficiency

One other point to note is that our imported food comes from a very wide range of countries with no single country at that time accounting for more than 13% of the food and drink imported. This does reduce the risk to our food supply as we are not relying on the weather or geopolitical situation of any particular region of the world at any one time.

Harvesting by Anne Burgess via Wikimedia Commons

Harvesting by Anne Burgess via Wikimedia Commons

It is also not as if this trade was all one way. Britain exports a lot of food around the world. As the DEFRA report says; although we are a net importer of food we sold £10.5 billion in food, feed and drink to the rest of the planet in 2006 and, for example, sold more lamb and mutton than was imported.

What we get out of this is a hugely diverse food supply and much less reliance on seasonal food.

At the end of the day we could redirect more food and drink for domestic consumption to reduce imports. But that would surely reduce choice as some of the things we import would be too difficult or expensive to grow here.

One can understand British farmers wanting support but what will drive our self sufficiency ratio into the future is likely to be cost to the consumer moderated by the willingness to 'buy British' (if we are still allowed to be asked to do such a thing as a member of the European Union).

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/10241070/British-produced-food-would-run-out-today-farmers-warn.html

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