IN JANUARY, amid food shortages brought about by Brexit, I remember Conservative MP John Redwood tweeting: “There is plenty of support for growing more of our own food. Tell your local supermarket we want more UK produce. I am pressing the government to get behind our farmers and fishing industry. Not much choice of UK cheeses, fruit and veg in some shops.”

He was widely pilloried for apparently failing to appreciate the difficulties of growing anything in the UK in winter – never mind the kind of exotic fruits and vegetables we so heavily import.

There are other flaws to be picked in Mr Redwood’s argument, not least the challenge Brexit has posed farmers by driving away migrant workers or a notable lack of investment in food production. But even if we had the money and the manpower to grow all the food we need, there’s still a question of land.

If we were to strive towards making the UK entirely self-sufficient, how much more arable land would we have to find? More pertinently for any future scenario where imports are in doubt, amid a zealous tree-planting drive targeting the farmers of Scotland, how much arable land can we afford to lose?

Thinking about the future (which I advise against, if at all possible), it’s not difficult to envisage a scenario in which forestry finds itself in a face-off with food security.

The Climate Change Committee’s sixth Carbon Budget advocated that by 2035 the UK should have planted 186,000 ha of new woodlands with a further 105,000 ha of farmland (most currently used to support livestock) shifting into energy crop production.

Despite this, agriculture is expected to continue to supply the same amount of food – or, if the ambitions of politicians like John Redwood are to be indulged, significantly more.

The problem should be obvious and ought not to be ignored. It’s one we devote a bit of attention to in the May issue of Forestry Journal. Other subjects covered in our features include:

• A year of Covid-19 and its impact on the industry;

• Profiles of steep-ground timber extraction company Duffy Skylining and machinery dealer Field and Forestry;

• Our monthly Buyer’s Guide focusing on site security.

Plus many more features, all the latest news, regular opinion columns and equipment for sale in the Classified section. To learn more, visit

As for tree planting and food security, it seems less of a challenge for tropical countries, which commonly integrate livestock with trees that produce staple foods like coconuts and mangos. Not an option here yet, but, with the creeping advance of climate change, maybe sooner than we think?