Today’s the day when the food runs out - or it would, if we had to rely on homegrown food. Launching a charter to get government, retailers, restaurateurs and shoppers to support UK farming, the National Farmers Union (NFU) declared: ‘Starkly, our current self-sufficiency rate means today, August 14, is the day British food supplies would run out if everything produced in a year was stored and eaten from January 1.’ The NFU says UK farms produce just 62 per cent of the food we eat.
So what? We now live in a global economy where we trade goods and services between countries for mutual benefit. If we can produce high-value products and sell them on the world market and buy the food we want more cheaply overseas, then we will be better off than trying to grow food in less-than-ideal conditions ourselves. Let New Zealand produce the lamb and Spain produce the tomatoes. In return, we will sell them Adele and One Direction (and some more sophisticated stuff, too). This is the idea of ‘comparative advantage’ first identified by David Ricardo 200 years ago and it still makes sense today.