From 'Towards Autarky',In Britain we are told that we are a globalised economy, that we need the rest of the world for our food and energy needs.
Whilst it is indeed true that our nation has taken a large role in globalisation, the lie perpetuated that we need the rest of the world for food and energy needs isn't entirely true.
Britain produces most of it's food requirements, as in common with other temperate nations our main staples are cereals.
Britain is usually 100% self-sufficient in cereals owing to the vast arable lands of Eastern England, it is also self-sufficient in most produce which can be grown or raised here.
The myth that Britain can't feed itself mainly comes from citing imports of food, but the majority of these food are produce which can't grow here and that we don't really need such as bananas, coffee, oranges, tea and rice.“Currently the UK is 60% self-sufficient in all foods and over 74% self-sufficient in foods that can be produced in this country”. (Para 4.12). This “self-sufficiency ranges from around 10% for fresh fruit to around 100% for cereals. (Para 4.15 of this DEFRA report).
Britain has a temperate climate which lends itself to a lot of different types of produce, a temperate climate is almost like a natural compromise between hot and cold climates and so this allows for a lot of cold and hot climate food alike to grow here.
Britain typically is between 70% and 80% self-sufficient in 'indigenous foods' most years, that is food that can be produced here. And this food isn't simply a few staples, it is wide and varied - we grow wheat, barley, oats and hops... apples, pears, plums, strawberries... potatoes, onions, cabbages, brassicas...
Basically most non-tropical food we produce here and there's even vineyards on a small scale in England and Wales and a tea plantation in Cornwall.
So why aren't we 100% self sufficient in these food? Well there's a number of reasons:
- Cereals grown for livestock feed - the UN and other organisations calculate that it takes roughly three times as much grain to feed animals than it does to directly process that grain into human foods!
- Improper use of land - Often I have seen fields perfectly suitable for arable put over to pasture, this is a waste of good land, livestock should be grazed on less suitable ground for arable such as hilly or poorer ground.
- Wasted land - Some small farmers often leave fields empty through much of the year. Councils are just as bad, taking up large fields which could be used for agriculture and using them as excessively spacious dog muck fields.
- Food waste - this is a very big problem in Western Society as a whole and needs tackling.
- Horse people - people who hog the land and push up land prices with their little fantasies about owning horses and riding them in the countryside. There's plenty of liveries but instead they have to aim to hog huge areas of good agricultural land.
Land use in the UK
England is largely devoted to arable and pastoral farming, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland consisting more largely of rough grazing.
Although it is rarely mentioned, it is widely known that England, especially the East of the country is the "Breadbasket of the UK" and it's most important agricultural region by far. Farming characterises the English countryside.
Each type of land use has it's uses:
- Arable (Tillage) - for cereals, the best type of agricultural land from an autarkal point-of-view since cereals can feed the most people.
- Grassland - for grazing dairy herds and livestock for meat, also a very important land use but not as efficient as arable due to the feeding requirements of livestock as mentioned above.
- Permanent crops - an area of crops such as vegetables which are able to supply a large part of the human diet, provide a large amount of food in relation to the size of the land and also help diversify the diet away from simply cereals and meat.
- Rough grazing - mainly devoted to the raising of sheep in the UK. It makes good use out of otherwise unprofitable land, mainly consisting of moorland and rough grassland. Most farm animals would struggle apart from sheep, hence most rough grazing is pasture for them. Rough grazing predominates in most of the UK except England does occur in some sizeable areas of England such as the Pennines.
Temperatures in the UK would probably rise less than elsewhere due to it's oceanic influence, but it could increase slightly which could lead to less rain in summer and more in winter. This would affect the crops grown, but a slight increase in temperature would perhaps be actually beneficial for UK agriculture, enabling new crops to grow and thrive here.
If the land was used properly we could almost certainly reach 100% self-sufficiency in our staple foods and cool climate produce. Protectionist measures would also help, France enjoys a lot of success with it's protectionist measures towards farming, Britain could too establish preference for it's own producers, especially if it left the EU.
If we set our mind to it we could easily become self-sufficient in foods we can produce here and our staples. We could export the surplus and import a few things we'd like but don't produce such as tropical fruits.Spoiler!