Sunday, July 14, 2024

Political parties urged to put food security policies on the menu

Ahead of the general election, party leaders are being urged by the UK’s food and drink supply chain to ensure policies on food security are front and centre of their public campaigns.

The NFU, British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality and Food and Drink Federation have joined forces to express frustration at the lack of coverage during the campaigns so far as to how the next government will approach the issue despite widespread agreement that “food security is national security”.

Given that the food and drink supply chain employs 7.7m people, and is the UK’s largest industrial sector, worth £240bn, political parties have been called upon to set out how they intend to support domestic food and farming sectors, and how they will work to ensure resilient supply chains.

In a letter to the party leaders, the organisations say this omission in public election campaigning needs to be urgently addressed before polling day.

The letter states: ‘Our food system has shown itself in recent years to be efficient and resilient, maintaining UK food supply through a series of major challenges, including Covid-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and new trading arrangements by leaving the European Union.

‘At times those supply chains have come under severe strain, leading to shortages of some food and drink products and increasing costs at all points of the chain from producer to consumer.

‘It would be foolhardy to assume that our food system will always withstand shocks, especially against the backdrop of increased geo-political instability and climate change.

‘The basic responsibility of any government is to ensure its citizens are safe and properly fed. But while we have heard much about defence and energy security in recent weeks, we have heard very little about food security.

‘The lack of focus on food in the political narrative during the campaigns demonstrates a worrying blind spot for those that would govern us.’

The letter makes the case that a thriving food and drink sector functions as ‘an engine for economic growth’, providing varied employment across all entry levels.

Profitable businesses across the food and drink supply chain not only contribute to the UK’s food security but also mean our natural environment can be managed sustainably and protected, and help meet climate ambitions the letter says.

‘A well-functioning supply chain also gives consumers access to a wide range of fresh produce and healthy food, is a crucial aspect of improving diets, alleviating pressure on the health service and improving health outcomes for our citizens.’

The letter concludes: “We should never take our food security for granted, and whoever forms the next government will need to address these issues as a priority. Taken together, these policies can provide the critical ingredient – confidence – that will allow industry to deliver a resilient food system, investing for the future, driving productivity, leading the way in energy efficiency, continuing the journey of protecting and enhancing the environment, and most of all, ensuring that British food remains on our shelves and available for all.”

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