In his keynote address at the N8 AgriFood International Conference 2018: ‘People, Health and Food Systems, challenges and solutions for 2030’, in Liverpool, Professor Lord Trees said future food security was “a major responsibility of government” and it needed to ensure affordable food, produced to high standards was maintained after the UK left the EU.
Lord Trees, former head of the Parasite and Vector Biology Division at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and former Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, told 300 delegates at the annual gathering: “While supporting environmental improvement, Government needs to ensure that we continue to produce adequate amounts of food of good quality in an environmentally sustainable way at affordable prices.”
He said this could be in jeopardy partly due to the numbers of foreign workers currently employed across the nation’s food production system.
“We are hugely reliant on non-UK EU nationals in various large areas of our economy, particularly in agri-food,” he said.
“In terms of my own particular area, in contribution to veterinary activities, but also in terms of labour at all levels in the food chain, particularly the slaughter and food processing stages, in harvesting of crops, vegetables and fruits and so on.”
He said this would create “huge implications” and the worry was that the labour deficit would be difficult to cover.
He added: “This then becomes the responsibility of the Home Office, not DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs], and there needs to be a realistic approach to admittance of overseas labour, there has to be an acknowledgment that we absolutely need these people for our economic development.”
He also told delegates that the headline implication of Brexit on the sector will be the potential loss of European funding through the Common Agricultural Policy, which will be replaced initially by domestic public support.