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Oilseed rape is also expected to drop to a historic low of 40%, down from an average of 75% between 2018 and 2022

Wet weather could reduce UK self-sufficiency by nearly a tenth, new analysis from the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit has revealed.

The projected crop reduction in key arable crops due to lower crop area and poor yields is expected to reduce the UK’s self-sufficiency across all farming sectors by 8% in volume.

This represents a decline from an average of 86% from 2018 to 2022 to 78% this year.

The ECIU said the country could become dependent on foreign imports for around a third of its wheat, with self-sufficiency of the crop estimated to decline from 92% in the same period to 68%.

It comes as the government is holding its ‘Farm to Fork Summit’ at Downing Street tomorrow, which will bring together representatives from across the UK food supply chain.

Defra said the summit would “focus on how government and industry can work together to grow an innovative and resilient farming and food sector that realises its economic potential and recruits the next generation of farming and food leaders”.

“In 2021, the government warned that climate change was the biggest medium to long-term threat to our food security,” said Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU. “This analysis suggests that it is the biggest risk now, not at some far off point in the future.”

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Climate scientists have warned that warmer, wetter winters are projected to become increasingly common as the world warms, raising concerns about the impact of climate change on UK food security.

“Ultimately, we need to support our farmers to better cope with climate extremes, and Defra’s new green farming schemes will be crucial in this, building the resilience of our soils to floods and droughts, as well as planting trees and hedgerows that will trap carbon and slow flood waters,” said Lancaster.

The ECIU estimated that compared to the average production between 2018 and 2022, and assuming an overall level of consumer demand equivalent to the average in the same period, the reduction in wheat self-sufficiency could see imports rise from 1.9 million tonnes to 4.8 million tonnes.

UK flour millers have warned that the higher grade milling wheat harvest could be down by as much as 40%, giving rise to concerns about the price of bread and other baked goods.

Oilseed rape is also expected to drop to a historic low of 40%, down from an average of 75% between 2018 and 2022.

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Other crops that have been impacted by wet weather were not included in the analysis, such as field vegetables, potatoes and sugar beet. This means that the 8% reduction in self-sufficiency could be an underestimate, the ECIU said.

“With its recent u-turns on climate policy, it’s possible the government will try to downplay the threat climate change poses to our food security at this summit, but farmers consistently report the changing climate is one of if not the greatest threat to their harvests,” said Lancaster.

“The only viable long-term plan for farming is getting to net zero emissions when we are no longer making the problem ever worse.”