THE UK would only have been able to feed itself until yesterday if it were not for imports.

The National Farmer’s Union said the UK’s selfsufficiency in food dropped to 60 per cent last year, down from 75 per cent in 1991.

Foods such as bananas have to be imported, but the level of self-sufficiency in food that can be grown or produced in the UK dropped from 77 per cent in 2012 to 73 per cent in 2013, and down from a high of almost 87 per cent in 1991.

The NFU said that while food exports have doubled in the past decade, the UK spends £21.3bn more on imports than it receives from exports, up from £10.2bn in 1991.

Speaking on Thursday, Meurig Raymond, NFU president, said: “To think UK food would only last until today without imports is an alarming notion.

“We know people want to buy British food, with 86 per cent of shoppers wanting to buy more traceable food produced on British farms.

“What we need now is for farming to be at the heart of decision-making across the wider food industry and government, for more food to be both produced and consumed here, in the UK.”

He said the UK needs to “give farmers the green light” to produce more food.

The NFU called for financial measures to boost on-farm investment in machinery and infrastructure such as water storage.

It also wants action to improve access to new crops, biotechnology and growing systems; fair, transparent supply chains; and secure returns from processors, retailers and caterers.

It also called for a partnership between Government and the industry to promote UK exports, and UK and EU trade policy to increase exports.

Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced the public sector will buy up to an extra £400m worth of locally sourced food and drink a year from 2017.

From September the government will introduce an online buying portal. Companies which register and meet its requirements will receive automatic alerts when eligible contracts come up for tender.