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Food security or food self-sufficiency?

  • by JW

“Food security is a much broader topic, encompassing availability, access and utilisation of food.” [Jess Corsair @ AHDB]


How can we build a better, more secure food system? – one possibility being to provide a steady supply of fruit and veg to greengrocers, corner shops and restaurants; another might be to create a National Food Strategy; and failing that, another might involve creating your own ‘Backyard Miracle Farm’

Meanwhile, we face the current conundrum of who should pay for unprecedented inflationary costs like fertiliser, fuel, gas, electricity, cardboard and plastic, to name but a few.

We should also be asking the longer-term question of whether we are dealing with the issue of food security or self-sufficiency – as looked at by Jess Corsair for the consultancy AHDB:

Food security is in the spotlight. There is increasing focus on food security due to global unrest, food shortages, climate change and other shocks such as the pandemic. More recently, at the NFU conference, the Prime Minister announced further commitments to food security reporting and funding for domestic production.

As food security is discussed more frequently, I often see it being confused with self-sufficiency and the terms used interchangeably. I think it is really important to separate the two terms and recognise that food security is a much broader topic, encompassing availability, access and utilisation of food.

This is where we are now – but fifteen years ago, the Soil Association was looking at UK self-sufficiency within the food security debate; some four years ago, UK government officials were looking at food security: what is it and how is it measured?; and two years ago, this understanding was challenged with the idea that food security does not require self sufficiency.

The slide opposite is from 2010 – and shows that the definitions are pretty unchanged – even though we still confuse them.

So, ‘food self-sufficiency’ is a subset of ‘food security’ – and it can be debated whether it is necessary or even possible…