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at 19,800 tonnes up by 2,200 tonnes or 12.6 per cent and the latter at 24,800 tonnes up by 1,900 tonnes or 8.5 per cent. In contrast, output of coarse mixes and blends for sheep, at 15,500 tonnes, was down by 2,200 tonnes or 12.5 per cent on the corresponding period of 2015. Output of feeds for sheep and lambs during the period under

review, at 60,300 tonnes, was fairly typical of output over the preceding two decades. Average production during the period was 60,900 tonnes with a maximum of 77,000 tonnes being recorded in 2013; once again, this appears to have reflected the exceptional weather conditions that characterised the year in question. Output of lightly processed feeds, such as flaked maize and

barley, has been a significant constituent of feed production in Northern Ireland for many years. During the period under review, production totalled 66,400 tonnes, accounting for 3.3 per cent of total output of processed feeds, an identical figure to that of the corresponding period of 2015. Output was just 500 tonnes or 0.8 per cent less than in 2015. The contributors to the small reduction in output were flaked meals of maize and barley; there was a small increase in the output of a variety of other lightly processed feeds. It is clear that total feed production in Northern Ireland during 2016

will remain in excess of 2 million tonnes, as has been the case since 2013. The final outcome of feed production in Ulster will be discussed in due course.

FOOD SECURITY A recently published report has called for the UK to be more self- sufficient in food production in the wake of continuing global uncertainty and reliance on food produced elsewhere in the world. The report, which has, so I understand, been funded and led by the University of Leeds, reveals that only 52 per cent of food that is eaten in this country comes from UK farmers. Supermarket chain Morrisons, which commissioned the

independent report – although I am not sure who actually paid for it – has recently launched its own campaign to recruit more than two hundred new UK suppliers in a campaign which it has called ‘The

Nation’s Local Foodmakers’. The report, entitled ‘British Food: What role should UK producers

have in feeding the UK? reveals the rapid increase of global goods’ trading over the past three decades, meaning we now export £18 billion of food whilst importing £39 billion. The report comes at a time when newspapers ranging from the Telegraph and the Guardian down to the likes of the Daily Mail reported that news of the so-called ‘courgette’ crisis has been greeted with a certain amount of mirth. The image of middle-class diners looking lost without their preferred suppers after what was described as ‘an uncommonly soggy winter in Spain’ was never going to provoke an outpouring of sympathy. However, the new report suggests that we may need to take the

situation rather more seriously if we intend to continue eating in the manner to which we have become accustomed. The report paints a sobering picture of the UK’s food sector. The UK has a trade deficit in every category of food with the exception of ‘drink’ – Scotch whisky has seen to that. Imports come from no less than one hundred and sixty- eight countries, although the majority comes from just a few nations, which the report dubs ‘bread baskets’. Of course, there is nothing wrong with importing food and it is true

that having a few ‘bread basket’ economies leads to size efficiencies and price reductions. But with food price inflation creeping up thanks to the weak pound, to say nothing of Brexit potentially bringing tariffs for both exporters and importers of food, the public debate may have to focus increasingly on the kind of choices that could face us in the years ahead. In addition to encouraging consumers to buy more local, seasonal produce, policymakers may have to look for innovative solutions. What is encouraging is the government recognises the importance of the UK’s food security: documents leaked last week showed that agriculture, together with food and drink were listed among high priority sectors when it comes to Brexit negotiations, although fisheries was demoted to a medium priority, a fact that is unlikely to have impressed fishermen. Across the world, many countries are starting to take matters into their own hands. For example, faced with a growing population

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