Strategic partner ... not whipping boy

Related tags Sustainability Food security Food

It was an idea first mooted in last year's Cabinet Office Food Matters report and one that was supported recently in a Parliamentary inquiry...

It was an idea first mooted in last year's Cabinet Office Food Matters report and one that was supported recently in a Parliamentary inquiry conducted by the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. Now, after months of work, the government has published its initial thinking on a vision for UK food supply chain and plans to produce its long-term strategy for food in the autumn.

Our messages to Whitehall are simple: we want to see a clearer, more coherent and consistent approach to food policy across d epartments; we want a public commitment that government will in future support a successful food sector as a top priority in its own right (rather than treating it as a whipping boy); and we want ministers to recognise they must do a much better job at ensuring we have an appropriate regulatory environment here in the UK so that our industry can remain competitive, particularly against our EU competitors.

We are also reminding politicians that food production is a vital part of the UK economy - it's twice as big as the car industry, for instance, and isn't looking for state handouts; and while life has been bumpy of late, our sector has acted as a stabilising force for the economy in the recent manufacturing slump.

As well as creating wealth for the nation, manufacturers have a key strategic role to play in ensuring the nation's food security against the combined effects of climate change, higher global demand and increasing pressure on finite resources. Without us, there would be no healthy agricultural sector in this country; no self-sufficiency in food production; and less resilience in the food chain.

We now have a unique chance to work with government and our food chain partners to develop a vision and strategy for food that takes full account of our economic, strategic and social importance to the UK.

''Julian Hunt director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation www. fdf.org.uk''