Government needs to support British food or faces “sleepwalking” into food crisis

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

NFU president Minette Batters: "We need government and the wider supply chain to act now."
NFU president Minette Batters: "We need government and the wider supply chain to act now."

Related tags Supply chain

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has called on the Government to support British food or it faces “sleepwalking” into a food supply crisis.

The organisation has said that it is a “stark choice”​ but the Government needs to back British food production to secure a home-grown supply of sustainable food or risks seeing more empty shelves in the nation’s supermarkets.

The warning came at an emergency press conference convened by the NFU, on the same day as NFU horticulture board members gathered for an extraordinary meeting about ongoing shortages in its workforce. 

The NFU said that egg producers and UK fruit and veg growers are already under massive pressure due to soaring energy costs and workforce shortages. It predicted that other farming sectors could soon be under threat from immediate supply issues caused by a lack of fairness for farmers and growers throughout the supply chain.

Honouring commitments

NFU president Minette Batters urged the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to honour the commitments he made to support British farmers through the energy crisis and to set a target for the nation’s food security, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels.

“Shoppers up and down the country have for decades had a guaranteed supply of high-quality affordable food produced to some of the highest animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards in the world. That food, produced with care by British farmers, is critical to our nation’s security and success. But British food is under threat,”​ said Batters. 

“Only last week, the former Director General of MI5, The Baroness Manningham-Buller, said that food is part of our critical national infrastructure and that government needs to be consistent in planning for our food supply. I couldn’t agree more, particularly at a time when global volatility is threatening the stability of the world’s food production, food security and energy security."

Batters added that the egg supply chain has been "crippled under the pressure" caused by these issues.

"I fear the country is sleepwalking into further food supply crises, with the future of British fruit and vegetable supplies in trouble. We need government and the wider supply chain to act now - tomorrow could well be too late,” ​she said.

The NFU is asking for: 

  • An urgent investigation by Defra into whether an “exceptional market conditions”​ declaration should be made under the Agriculture Act 2020, given the severe disruption which egg producers and UK consumers are experiencing. 
  • The Government needs to to progress with its plans to bring fairness in the dairy sector.  In 2021, the government announced it would regulate dairy contracts to enable fairer terms for dairy farmers.  
  • Fruit and veg growers need fair treatment and confidence to invest and a commitment from government to lift the cap on the seasonal worker scheme to increase the number of visas available to meet the sector’s essential workforce needs
  • British food and farming needs to be a political priority. Promises made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in August 2022, need to be delivered, in particular: by establishing a new food security target, including a statutory duty to monitor and report on domestic food production levels annually, to hold a UK-wide annual food security summit and introduce a new target for public sector organisations to buy 50% of their food locally.
  • Agriculture and horticulture must be seen as a vulnerable sector in regard to energy security.

 

 

Related topics Supply Chain

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