Britain’s food and farming industry is worth about £1 trillion pounds to UK society in terms of its economic value and environmental benefits.
A Liberal Democrat party conference fringe event run by the NFU heard the importance of protecting the sector as Brexit negotiations continued.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said an audience member’s view of the industry resonated with farmers in the audience after he suggested agriculture’s wider benefits could be ‘worth at least a trillion’.
“We had stressed the point in the industry that the farming and food industry is worth more than 108 billion pounds and the industry employs 3.9 million people,” said Mr Raymond following the event in Brighton.
“But there was one lovely statement that came from the audience where an environmental non-governmental organisation suggested that food and farming, protecting the landscape and enhancing the landscape was worth at least a trillion pounds to UK society.”
- Meurig Raymond, NFU president
Mr Raymond said he was pleased the Liberal Democrats seemed ‘genuine’ in wanting to lift ‘food, farming and environment’ up the political agenda.
He said the industry would have to be ‘bold and positive and ambitious’ when discussing a domestic agricultural policy for post 2020.
“Another theme that came through loud and clear was home production and the patriotic support we get from our consumers,” said Mr Raymond.
“If there was ever a time that we could sell British produce, it’s on the back of the referendum.
“There was a strong view that we need the Government to really champion our food and farming in the years ahead.
“We have to work very closely with other organisations in the food industry because we as farmers supply the ingredients to their businesses.”
He said a ‘good strong unified voice’ combined with federal policies would be key in convincing the Government and the Treasury how important the industry is.
Farmers and growers will also have the chance to question MPs at NFU fringe events at the Labour (September 26) and Conservative (October 3) party conferences.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said he was ‘delighted’ to hear Tim Farron challenge former UKIP leader Nigel Farage on his statement that one advantage of coming out of the EU would be the ability to import cheap food from around the world.
Mr Raymond said: “The message was relayed last night that unless food is produced to a similar standard as ours it should not be allowed into the UK.
“What is the point of downsizing our agriculture in the years to come when we know British consumers want more British food to then maybe have it degraded through environmental standards elsewhere in the world?
“If you were going to pillage parts of the world to produce food and reduce the potential production in the UK, that is not what society needs and that is not what the British consumer needs.”