Leaked emails sent by a top Treasury official have caused widespread concern amongst farmers as he appears to rubbish the significance of the sector to the UK economy.
Emails seen by the Mail on Sunday show Dr Tim Leunig suggested Britain could become more like Singapore, which is “rich without having its own agricultural sector”.
He said “Food sector isn’t critically important to the UK, and ag[riculture] and fish production certainly isn’t.”
He also questioned tax breaks given to farmers and suggested that the UK could import its food in future in emails sent to the National Food Strategy, the Government’s wide-ranging review of the British food system.
But the comments have provoked outrage.
Minette Batters, the president of the National Union of Farmers, said the UK has a “moral imperative” to produce its own food, dismissing the comparison with Singapore.
Talking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday show, he said: “Singapore has five million people, and doesn’t have any farmed landscape so it actually has to import all its food.
“Here, 75 per cent of Britain is a farmed landscape, we have a fantastic maritime climate in which to produce our food, and we have 60 million-plus people here to feed so there’s a sort of moral imperative, if you like, for us to be able to produce food in this country.”
The government also distanced itself from Dr Leunig’s remarks, which are understood to have been made in personal emails and with the adviser not speaking in his Treasury role.