“It is looking exceptional this year,” says William Pitts, as the torrent of golden wheat ears sweeps into the flashing blades below the cab of his combine harvester. In the next hour, about 50 tonnes of wheat will pour out of the combine into waiting trucks as it clears the field on Grange Farm in Northamptonshire. “We had a mild winter, rain when we wanted it and good sunshine too.” That is a relief for farmers after a rain-ruined 2012 and the frozen spring of 2013. But despite the prospect of a decent harvest this year, Britain’s ability to feed itself is in long-term decline, with self-sufficiency falling from 78% to 60% in the last 30 years. The National Farmers Union calculates that this Thursday would be the day that the year’s food supply would run out without imports. “An alarming notion,” says Meurig Raymond, president of the NFU. “But looking back seeing the downward slope in self-sufficiency says to me: this needs to change.” In July, MPs warned that the nation’s ability to feed itself is threatened by “complacency” over the increasingly extreme weather driven by climate change and increasing competition for food as the world’s population grows. Pitts… Read full this story
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