NFU calls for Government action following EFRA’s Food Security report
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (EFRA) has published its Food Security Report. In response the NFU’s president, Minette Batters has called for: “Government to act on the recommendations made by the Committee to bolster Britain’s food security.”
She continued: “We have been calling for Government to take our national food security seriously for several years and we echo the Committee’s recommendation for strong leadership on the issue.
“As part of this leadership, the need for all Government departments to have a coordinated approach towards food policy is vital. We welcome the recommendation of a Cabinet Office review into all aspects of food policy.
“At such a tricky time for many UK households, the report addresses much of the inflationary pressures experienced by both families and farmers and growers. Everyone should have access to affordable, quality, sustainable food and British farmers and growers need the support of Government to have the confidence to continue producing. The reports’ finding that only 54% of the food eaten in the UK being grown here is shocking and it is concerning that this number could decrease further if British food and farming isn’t valued.
“In the same week as CF Fertilisers announced it will be permanently closing its Billingham ammonia plant, the report’s acknowledgement of the risk of there only being one fertiliser factory in the UK is a timely one. Availability of fertiliser is a crucial element of domestic food security and Government should look closely at how this could impact production.
“Food security matters and British farmers and growers are well placed to provide climate-friendly food for the nation, while protecting and enhancing our iconic countryside.
“Last summer the Prime Minister committed to introduce a new self-sufficiency target and annual reporting – clearly this needs to happen as a matter of urgency. With one of the best climates in the world for producing food, we should be aiming to produce more food here in the UK.”
The Government has two months to respond to EFRA’s 23 recommendations, which fall into six broad categories:
- The importance of food security
- Government food policy
- UK food supply
- Domestic food security
- Household food security
- Obesity and access to healthy food
Amongst these the Committee said the Prime Minister should chair a dedicated food security summit later this year and this should be an annual event, in line with his previous promise.
It also said a fully updated edition of the UK Food Security Report should be published on an annual basis, and a month in advance of an annual food summit. It recommended that this should be accompanied by an action plan for at least the next 12 months on the steps the Government will take to improve food security.
Food policy found wanting
EFRA found there to be an incoherent approach to food policy across Government.
It said that whilst Defra is designated as the Government department responsible for food policy, 15 other departments and agencies are involved in different elements of development and delivery.
The Committee felt that the successes of food policy coordination across Whitehall forged during the Covid-19 pandemic have not been maintained, and that it has concerns that a ‘siloed’ approach to food policy could hinder the successful implementation of the Government Food Strategy.
Given the importance of food security, and the need for policy coherence and for strong leadership on this issue, EFRA recommended that the Cabinet Office should undertake a comprehensive review of departmental responsibilities and structures regarding food policy and its various facets, and to publish its findings within 12 months of the date of publication of its Report.
Click here to read the full report.