Monday, 14 March 2011

Japan - where next for farming and what can the UK learn?

Seth Wareing from Keenan (one of my clients) has just been to Japan to share cattle feeding knowledge and techniques as the Japanese strive to dramatically reverse their reliance on imported food. Japan is currently only 40% self sufficient in food (lowest of any of the developed nations; in the UK we are 59% self-sufficient). The Japanese Government is pushing hard for increased food production and domestic food consumption (rice, fish and vegetables).

But this background combined with the awful aftermath of the earthquake will leave this quest for more domestic production blighted. The local Government in the Sendai area has been trying to encourage young people back to farming and fishing (most farmers are over 65, and most rice farmers over 70). It looks like it will take a long time to rebuild this region... but how long will it take to rebuild and re-energise farming in the area given that it was only just starting before the Quake?

In a time when the UK's domestic food production is at an all time low, maybe we should take note of what's happened in Japan - maintaining British food prodcution capability for the future is key. How would we fare if our self-sufficiency went down to 40%? how would we re-build our production capability? what would it cost to do it? How would a natural disaster/reduction in production capability in a key agricultural region in the UK affect us economically and practically?

As we watch Japan with sadness and horror at nature's might... politicians and food companies take note - support British farming - or lose it.

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