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UK political parties ignore food shortage risks, says farming and retail bodies | Food and Beverage Industry

UK political parties ignore food shortage risks, says farming and retail bodies |  Food and Beverage Industry
UK political parties ignore food shortage risks, says farming and retail bodies |  Food and Beverage Industry

 


Farmers and supermarkets have accused the main political parties of ignoring the risk of serious food shortages in the UK and calling the issue a blind spot in the general election campaign.

The UK's leading agriculture and food and drink organizations have joined forces to express their frustration at the lack of focus on food security by politicians as they seek to win votes despite the headwinds faced by producers.

The letter from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to Conservative, Labor and Liberal Democrat leaders said: The basic responsibility of any government is to ensure the safety of its citizens and an adequate food supply.

But while we've heard a lot about defense and energy security in recent weeks, we've heard very little about food security.

The lack of focus on food in the political narrative during the campaign shows a worrying blind spot in those who will govern us.

Other signatories of the letter included the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) and UK Hospitality.

Farmers are currently facing a number of challenges that limit their ability to grow crops, including extreme weather conditions and rising production costs.

Between October 2022 and March 2024, the UK experienced the wettest 18-month period since records began in 1836. This left many farms under water and farmers unable to plant their crops.

Yields of staple crops such as wheat, barley and oats could fall by as much as a fifth this year due to wet weather, according to an analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

The NFU's annual Farmer Confidence Survey found the majority of farmers will reduce production next year.

The letter said the UK's food system has remained efficient and resilient in recent years due to COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and the UK's exit from the EU, but supply chains have been put under pressure, leaving gaps on some store shelves.

The groups wrote: It would be foolish to assume that our food systems will always withstand shocks, especially against a backdrop of increasing geopolitical instability and climate change.

NFU president Tom Bradshaw said the letter's signatories were concerned that food security had not been on either political party's agenda in the first few weeks of the July 4 general election campaign.

He said all the declarations had good elements, but the letter's signatories agreed that stronger commitments were needed to protect food production.

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The Conservatives have pledged, if elected, to increase the UK-wide agricultural budget by a billion times that of parliament and introduce legally binding food security targets for the country.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to commit $1 billion a year to the agriculture budget while also engaging in more consultation with the sector on trade deals.

Labor has not set a figure for the agricultural budget but has promised to publish a trade strategy to promote highest levels of food production.

Bradshaw pointed out that there were several holes in Labour's manifesto relating to the NFU, particularly the failure to specify a farming budget if the NFU were to come to power.

He said: They wrote in their manifesto that food security is national security. We welcome this. But now we need to ensure that we have the policies to support those ambitions.

The food group's letter calls on all parties to commit to a planning system that allows investment in modern buildings, as well as agricultural budgets that can meet environmental targets, and a trade approach that reduces friction and tariffs.

Sources

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2/ https://www.theguardian.com/business/article/2024/jun/20/farming-retail-uk-tories-labour-lib-dems-food-security-shortage

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