Thursday, 28 April 2016

George in Japan

Last week I represented the UK at the G7 summit in Japan where we discussed how to address the challenge of feeding a growing world population while protecting the environment. 

Around the world countries are turning their attention to the challenge that demographic changes pose. The world population is currently projected to grow to about nine billion by 2050 and demand for food could increase by around fifty percent. The truth is we are going to need our farming and fishing industries like never before and we will need leaps forward in technology to deliver more food more sustainably.

In the UK we are leading the world in developing new technologies which mean we can make better use of things like satellite data to have more precise use of inputs like fertilisers.  We are also doing work to breed new proteins from peas that will enable us to reduce our reliance on imported soya beans for animal feeds and we are funding a range of breeding programmes to develop new varieties of crop that are drought tolerant so that developing countries will still be able to produce food even from land where water becomes scarce.

Fish protein will also be important.  We have made big strides over the last two decades in understanding the science of our oceans and in improving the sustainability of the fishing industry. There is also scope to do far more by way of aquaculture and the UK is funding work that would enable essential Omega 3 fish oils crucial to fish farms to be synthesised in crops grown in the soil. 

While in Tokyo I also did some trade promotion work to promote British food and drinks products.  It was great to see Cornish company Tregothnan out in Japan selling Cornish grown tea to the Japanese and other Asian markets. They had even been asked to be the judge in a competition to assess the quality of tea!  We have some amazing and unique food and drink producers in Cornwall who are increasingly finding an interest for their products overseas.