Food and Farming Plan details emerge

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

DEFRA's 25-year plan aims to ensure supply chain resilience
DEFRA's 25-year plan aims to ensure supply chain resilience

Related tags: Management, Food, George osborne

Productivity, exports and branding, supply chain resilience and consumer confidence will be the four central themes of the 25-year Food and Farming Plan when it is released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) later this month.

The themes were disclosed by Dr Lucy Foster, DEFRA science lead and evidence coordinator for food and farming, at a Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum seminar in February. The plan was to “attract investment, promote what’s great and improve our exports”,​ Foster claimed.

Productivity would centre on three areas: skills and apprenticeships; innovation, research and development and data; and entrepreneurship.

Foster said the theme was about “joining up research and using innovation”.​ She highlighted the setting up of the Agri-Food Tech Council – essentially a £160M government investment in developing cutting-edge technologies – as an example.

Exports and branding would concern what Foster described as “building brand Britain”,​ and involve retailer-led campaigns. She cited the launch of the Great British Food Unit in January as an initiative within this area.

‘Any risks that come along’ 

According to Foster, supply chain resilience was all about managing “any risks that come along, from the farm right through to the fork”​. This theme would concentrate on showcasing business models that “already work for best practice”, and get those taken up by others.

Finally, consumers were also a central part of the plan because, ultimately, they were the ones who bought the food, Foster said. “From the consumer perspective, it’s about ensuring we have secure, and diverse, supply chains – and maximising food safety and integrity,”​ she argued.

The 25-year plan comes in the wake of a 15% DEFRA budget cut imposed by chancellor George Osborne last November. At the time, the National Farmers Union warned the cuts could compromise the front-line delivery of DEFRA’s services.

The subject of cuts

On the subject of the cuts, Foster said: “We need to maximise the funding that we have and build those links and work together, because without those we won’t truly benefit from the opportunities that are actually out there for businesses.”

Foster also acknowledged that there were “unprecedented”​ pressures on the food system, namely from limited resources, climate change and finite land use. She picked out rising global food demand, and the rising consumption of western-style diets as particular burdens on the industry.

“The food industry is complicated – we all know that and we need to join it all up. And that’s what we’re trying to do through the Food and Farming Plan.

“We need to build on our strengths and our excellent science. We need to strengthen our connections, so this is basically having great science but bringing it right through into practice. And building partnerships is key.”

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