Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Securing food supplies up to 2050: the challenges faced by the UK

Report published

The Committee published ' Securing food supplies up to 2050: the challenges faced by the UK ', its Fourth Report 2008-09 (HC 213-I), on 21 July 2009.

Oral and Written Evidence (HC 213-II) was also published on 21 July 2009.

The Government response was published on 19 October 2009.

Terms of reference

The dramatic rise in food prices in 2007 and the early part of 2008 significantly raised the political profile of food policy on a global scale.   These price rises resulted from a number of factors, including harvest failure, the use of land for bio-fuels, population expansion and an increasing demand for meat and dairy products in developing countries such as China and India.

 In July 2008, the UK Government responded by publishing a Cabinet Office Strategy Unit report, “Food Matters”, and a Defra discussion paper on “Ensuring the UK’s Food Security in a Changing World”.  Food prices are beginning to fall again, but the spike highlighted the importance of a long-term approach to food security. 

At the June 2008 summit on World Food Security in Rome, organised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Secretary General announced that world food production would have to increase by 50% by 2030 to meet the demand caused by population increases and rising prosperity.  The FAO further estimated that food production needed to double by 2050, to feed an anticipated population of 9 billion.

 The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee are interested in how well the UK is equipped to play its part in meeting this challenge.  While the UK’s population will not increase on the same scale as some other countries, the UK is part of a global food system and population growth elsewhere in the world will inevitably affect our ability to secure our own food supplies.

The Committee will conduct its inquiry in two parts: the first will concentrate on establishing the challenges the UK faces in responding to the call to increase food production and the second on what actions should be taken by the Government, the food industry, farmers, growers, and fishermen, to meet those challenges. 

The inquiry will address the following points:

• How robust is the current UK food system?  What are its main strengths and weaknesses?

• How well placed is the UK to make the most of its opportunities in responding to the challenge of increasing global food production by 50% by 2030 and doubling it by 2050, while ensuring that such production is sustainable? 

• In particular, what are the challenges the UK faces in relation to the following aspects of the supply side of the food system:

- soil quality

- water availability

- the marine environment 

- the science base

- the provision of training

- trade barriers

- the way in which land is farmed and managed

• What trends are likely to emerge on the demand side of the food system in the UK, in terms of consumer taste and habits, and what will be their main effect?  What use could be made of local food networks?

• What role should Defra play both in ensuring that the strengths of the UK food system are maintained and in addressing the weaknesses that have been identified?  What leadership and assistance should Defra provide to the food industry?

• How well does Defra engage with other relevant departments across Government, and with European and international bodies, on food policy and the regulatory framework for the food supply chain?   Is there a coherent cross-Government food strategy? 

• What criteria should Defra use to monitor how well the UK is doing in responding to the challenge of doubling global food production by 2050 while ensuring that such production is sustainable?

The Committee invited all interested parties to address these and related matters in writing by 22 January 2009. The deadline for submissions has now passed.

Oral evidence

Thursday 7 May 2009
Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Wednesday 1 April 2009
Mr Anastassios Haniotis, Head of Unit, Agricultural Policy Analysis and Perspectives, European Commission

Monday 30 March 2009
The Soil Association

Wednesday 18 March 2009 
Natural England

Wednesday 4 March 2009
National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations ; National Farmers’ Union and Country Land and Business Association

Wednesday 25 February 2009
Tesco; Unilver and Food and Drink Federation

Wednesday 4 February 2009
Chatham House food supply project; Rothamsted Research and Warwick HRI

Wednesday 28 January 2009
Professor Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University; Professor John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Advisor

Inquiry launch

Thursday 11 December 2008
The Committee held an open discussion to launch its new inquiry at Borough Market.
Speakers: Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University; Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers Union; Chris Brown, Head of Sustainable and Ethical Sourcing at ASDA; and the food writer Jenny Linford.


Press Notices

15/10/09 Government response to be published
21/07/09 Report published
14/07/09 Report to be published
11/02/09 Further evidence session announced
09/02/09 Further evidence session announced
12/01/09 Evidence sessions announced
11/12/08 Inquiry announced
04/12/08 Inquiry launch announced