BRIDGWATER and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger backs the Government’s decision to cut back its rewilding programme in order to maintain food production.

With the war in Ukraine threatening world food stocks and threatening major shortages, particularly in developing countries, ministers have halted plans to hand huge tracts of farmland back to nature.

Instead a number of initiatives have been announced aimed at raising the country’s food auto-sufficiency.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said not to have taken such a step would have left the UK dangerously exposed to major shortages.

“We are only about 60 per cent self-sufficient in food as it is - some 20 per cent lower than in the 1990s.” he said.

“Much of that fall has been down to the retailers ditching British farmers and seeking alternative supplies from countries where labour is cheaper and environmental and welfare standards lower.

“I and a lot of others have been warning for years that that is not a comfortable or sensible position to be in because any unforeseen event could suddenly makes things very much worse.

“We have now had the unforeseen event in the shape of the war in Ukraine.

"We have also seen the almost inevitable consequence - food-exporting countries turning off the tap to conserve supplies for their own people and a consequent rise in global prices.

“Germany clearly saw this coming back in March when it took a million hectares of farmland out of its greening programme so they could be turned back to growing food - and I am very glad the UK is, if somewhat belatedly, going down the same road.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said the dramatic effect which could result from a disruption in food supplies was already evident.

“Go to France at the moment and you will find the shelves totally empty of mustard because the situation in Ukraine comes on top of a failed harvest last year in Canada, which supplies much of Europe’s mustard seed - and cooking oil is well on the way to becoming equally scarce,” he said.

“I know the decision to row back on rewilding is going to cause wailing and gnashing of teeth in the ranks of the environmentalists, but taking land out of production is a luxury that can only be afforded when food supplies are plentiful and secure."