Government must recognise that water is a vital ingredient of our food and is essential to the economic performance of the agri-food sector.
That’s the key message in a new position statement drawn up by organisations representing the interests of farmers, growers, processors and manufacturers.
The statement, published by the Water for Food Group, says water is essential to grow and process high quality food and to sustain the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.
It says increasing water demands from other sectors, and a greater risk of water scarcity caused by droughts and climate change, already threaten the industry’s ability to sustain and increase efficient, high quality food production at affordable prices.
Growers of high value fruit and vegetables are particularly reliant on access to secure supplies of water.
The Water for Food Group wants water for food production to be designated as an ˜essential water need”, alongside water for people and for energy, and prioritised accordingly by the Government particularly in its proposals to reform water abstraction.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “All farmers and growers depend on secure supplies of water to grow our food but many of them are increasingly vulnerable to water shortages as a result of dry weather and strict regulations.
“With Government currently reviewing the system of how to allocate water between different users when there isn’t enough to meet everybody’s needs, it is timely for us to ask for a fair share of water to grow the nation’s food.
“Given the importance of food as essential for life, many people may be surprised that water for food isn’t already acknowledged as a priority use.”
Helen Munday, Chief Scientific Officer, Food and Drink Federation, said: “FDF fully understands the need to take action in those catchments where there is a risk of unsustainable abstraction, and to develop a system that can be more responsive to future pressures on our water resources.
“Any approach to this must recognise that water is essential for food and drink production. There is a clear link between water security and the Government’s broader priorities around economic growth and food security, including its wider ambitions for increased production and export growth in the agri-food sector.”