The National Farmers' Union, which represents the interests of the UK's farmers, has warned that food production will need to rise substantially by 2026, when the population is expected to reach 70 Million.
By that point, the UK will be less than 50% self-sufficient in home-produced food, NFU president Peter Kendall has warned.
Mr Kendall has been quoted as saying that increasing UK production would be essential in order to keep food price inflation under control and to boost the economic recovery. To achieve this goal farmers would need a more transparent market and a supply chain where the balance of power could not be abused.
The president has also emphasised that research and development is vital to farmers' productive future and, at a seminar in Cambridge recently, said that there was no doubt that agricultural R&D had suffered in recent decades. He described the current scenario as one where farmers and growers were being asked to produce more while having less environmental impact.
He believed that this can be achieved through a better use of inputs like fertilisers and sprays, and that science and technology had a role to play in delivering the solutions that would enable farmers to meet the challenge of feeding the extra eight million or so people the UK is likely to have in the next 15 years.
In addition to the picture outlined above, there is increasing evidence that consumers are becoming more discriminating about the quality of the food they buy.
This comment found on the website of the US-based Worldwatch Institute, that pesticide residues in food are of particular concern for women who are planning on having children, illustrates the point.
Between them, the comments from the NFU and the concerns of consumers reinforce the point that farmers are in urgent need of suitable tools to achieve what will be asked of them and to help ensure that the UK does not become even more vulnerable to food security concerns.
Some research and development is being carried out on ways to help farmers. One such is the work on developing alternative low-chem agricultural products, by biopesticides developers. Some of them have entered into partnership with producer companies in order to help get their biopesticides, biofungicides and yield-enhancers through the testing, licensing and registration processes of individual countries to be more widely available to farmers.
Meanwhile, the EU in particular has been taking action on de-registering many of the older generation of chemical-based pesticides and other agricultural products in response to consumer concerns, but there is a long way to go before alternatives are widely and affordably available to farmers.
Biopesticides are among the new agricultural tools what will help the UK's farmers increase production sustainably to meet the predicted rise in population to 70 million by 2026. By Ali Withers.