UK farm and food bosses urge government action on supply

By Sean Ashcroft
Summit of UK food and farm leaders want British government to move from short-term supply fixes to long-term planning to remedy food problems

A coalition of UK food and farming businesses has warned the government that the country faces a food supply-chain crisis unless it fixes structural issues facing the industry.

The call comes ahead of a food and farming meeting that is being held today (December 14) at which UK farms and food leaders will come together. They will include National Farming Union (NFU) president Minette Batters. 

The NFU and other farming organisations are calling on the government to set out a food and farming policy that creates a resilient and sustainable supply chain.

UK food chiefs meet to demand food supply action

The summit takes place against a backdrop of a shortage of lorry drivers, reduced product choice on supermarket shelves and rising imports, due to domestic supply chain difficulties. On top of this, inflation has seen energy, feed and fertiliser prices soar..

The NFU’s Minette Batters said that Britain’s farmers are “world-leaders in producing climate friendly food” and that over the past 18 months had been “working hard to keep shelves and fridges full”, despite many being impacted by severe supply chain issues.

She added: ”Government has tried to paper-over the cracks with short-term fixes but if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage.”

Batters wants “serious commitment” from the government to maintain the country’s food production self-sufficiency level at 60 per cent. This, she says, will help “create an environment for farm and food businesses to thrive and compete in the coming years”.

Food supply 'never been more challenging'

Other farm-sector leaders also spoke out for change.

Jayne Almond, policy director with the Food and Drink Federation said: “Food and drink provides local jobs and makes a significant contribution to the UK’s economic performance. But supply chain issues and rising costs are challenging manufacturers like never before. 

Almond urged food sector bodies to “work together” to support producers and manufacturers while ensuring UK shoppers “continue to get the food and drink they want, at the right price”.

Meanwhile, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability with the British Retail Consortium, said: “The government needs a coherent food policy to maintain UK production, including a clear strategy for solving labour shortages throughout the supply chain. Food retailers and producers are working hard to adapt to a post-Brexit world, ensuring supply chains can continue to deliver quality and affordable food for everyone.”

UK food producers want government collaboration

Food production companies are also speaking out. Ash Amirahmadi, managing director, Arla Foods UK, said: “UK food and farming supply strains are not going to go away, as we work to become even more sustainable and compete for the best people to come into our industry. Collaboration between government, the industry and farmers is the only way to address this for the long-term.”

Bob Carnell, chief executive of beef specialist ABP UK, said: “To help give UK consumers and other markets access to the best beef in the world, we need to attract and retain more skilled workers from home and abroad and ensure a level playing field for quality British meat when compared to imports.”

 

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