The Crop Protection Association UK Ltd. – Written evidence (FPO0021)
- We are delighted that the Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment Committee has been established to consider ways of making a healthy, sustainable diet accessible to everyone.
- The Crop Protection Association (CPA) is the voice of the UK plant science industry, promoting the essential role of science and innovation in protecting food, parks, gardens roads and railways. Advocating good stewardship, better regulation and best practice.
- The Association represents companies in the UK involved in the development and manufacture of a wide range of plant science technologies including crop protection products, or pesticides. We have 23 member companies, covering around 96% of the UK pesticide market. Details of our members can be found at: http://www.cropprotection.org.uk/who-we-are/
- Crop protection products are a fundamental part of modern food production, especially if we are to meet the challenge of feeding a global population expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050. The UN estimates that we need to produce 50% more food by 2050, but at the same time we need to protect our natural environment. Modern technology such as pesticides and plant breeding will be crucial in meeting national and international demands for safe food, helping us maximise the productivity of existing land, whilst leaving uncropped land as habitats for wildlife.
- We recently published the report, “Plant Protection Products: The value of their contribution to lowering UK household expenditure on food and drink”, by the independent economist Séan Rickard. Professor Rickard was formerly the Chief Economist for the National Farmers Union and the findings of his report may be of interest to the committee. The report considered what effect the removal of plant protection products (PPPs), or pesticides, would have on the cost of food for UK families.
- The latest official data shows that the average household currently spends £60.60 per week on food and non-alcoholic drinks consumed in the home. This report estimated that, in the absence of plant protection products, this bill would rise by almost £11 a week – an increase of more than 17 per cent. Over the course of a year the cost to the average household of home consumed food and non-alcoholic drinks would increase by £562.
- A focus on the average household underestimates the impact of higher food prices for many households; in particular those with children and pensioners. Not surprisingly households with children spend a higher proportion of weekly expenditure on food. The latest data shows that households with two adults and two children spend £81.70 per week on food and non-alcoholic drinks for home consumption: equivalent to 10 per cent of their weekly expenditure. Given the composition of expenditure within these two adult-two children households, the impact on their weekly outgoings in the absence of plant protection products, would amount to a rise of £15.10: an increase of 18.5 per cent. This means that over the course of a year expenditure on home consumed food and non-alcoholic drinks would rise by £786.50.
- Poorer households with children spend a much higher proportion of their weekly expenditure on food. Households in the lowest quintile spend £63.70 per week on food and non-alcoholic drinks consumed in the home which amounts to 16.8 per cent of £379 total weekly expenditure. If food expenditure for households in this poorest group rose by 18.5 per cent, they would have to find another £11.70 per week and the share of expenditure devoted to food and non-alcoholic drinks for home consumption would rise to 19.8 per cent. Over the course of a year these poorer households would need to find an extra £612 – a severe challenge for already hard-pressed households.
- Some of the largest increases in prices, in the absence of plant protection products, would be for vegetables and fruit. The report calculates that the retail level prices for these categories of food are likely to rise by at least 40 per cent. Such an increase would seriously compromise the government’s target for people to consume at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day. Indeed, given that the cornerstone for improving the nation’s health is access to a wide range of affordable foods, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that poorer health, particularly for vulnerable households, would be a consequence, posing a higher burden for the National Health Service and also negatively impacting on the country’s economic performance.
- The report shows that plant protection products are essential in maintaining the supply of affordable food for families across the UK. Poorer households with children spend a much higher proportion of their weekly expenditure on food, meaning that their budgets will be squeezed even further if PPPs are threatened. UK farmers need every tool in the box, including pesticides, if they are to provide high quality, safe, affordable food.
- In terms of sustainability, we are on the brink of the next agricultural revolution; advances in science and agricultural technology are helping to ensure a supply of plentiful and affordable food whilst reducing the impact on the environment. Our member companies play a critical role in supporting farmers on this journey by providing biological, seed-breeding, data, robotics and pest management solutions that go beyond chemicals.
- To help fight climate change, we aim to be as productive as possible on the land we have. By using crop protection products, farmers are able to maximise the productivity of existing farmland resulting in more land for nature. A low yield farming system would require more land to be brought into production for yield levels to be maintained, having significant impacts on nature. Indeed, researchers from Cambridge University recently found that high-yielding farming delivered better outcomes for biodiversity, compared to low yielding systems.
- The full report is available for download at: https://cropprotection.org.uk/media/1153/sean-rickard-food-prices-report-final.pdf, we also have hard copies which can be made available to the committee if required.
The Crop Protection Association UK Ltd.
11 September 2019