Industry leaders have warned politicians must take food security more seriously after the UK plunged fourteen places in a prestigious global league table.
In the 2019 Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Food Security Index, the UK ranked number 17, down from joint-third with the USA in 2018, when only Ireland and Singapore scored more highly.
The 2018 scores are not directly comparable to the 2019 rankings because some new measurement metrics were used, including levels of agricultural infrastructure and nutritional standards, but where scores were updated to allow year-on-year comparisons, the UK dropped by 0.1 and the USA rose by 0.6.
Most major European nations also improved their scores in 2019, with Germany up 1.1, Greece 0.8, Poland 0.7, Ireland, Denmark, Italy and Spain 0.6, and the Netherlands and Norway 0.5.
France’s score remained unchanged.
Out of all the 113 countries in the index, the UK was one of just 18 to fall down the rankings, joining others such as Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Yemen and Nicaragua.
Singapore and Ireland held on to their top-two spots for the second year running.
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City, University of London, told Farmers Guardian he was ‘not surprised’ by the results.
“Having spent the last couple of years reviewing UK data across a wide range of food infrastructural matters, one cannot be surprised at any verdict other than insecurity has risen,” he said.
NFU vice president Stuart Roberts suggested the drop in the UK’s score should remind people not to take food security for granted.
“Some of the issues identified in the rankings include a lack of investment in research and development and increased volatility in production, as well as political uncertainty as we exit the EU,” he said.
“We identified these issues in our manifesto this year, when we called for a future domestic agriculture policy with food production at its heart, a smooth and frictionless transition from the EU and, of course, a national food strategy.”
Leicestershire farmer Joe Stanley echoed Mr Roberts’ comments, describing the fall in global rankings as a ‘timely reminder’ to the incoming Government about how food security needed to be addressed as a strategic priority.
“With the right support, British farmers stand ready to provide a greater share of healthy, sustainably-produced food from secure domestic production,” he added.