NFU Scotland president: Policy makers must “get heads out of the sand”

NFU Scotland president: Policy makers must “get heads out of the sand”

The president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland told policy makers to “take their head out of the sand” to deliver “meaningful, viable support” for the Scottish food industry within the post-Covid climate.

Martin Kennedy, NFU Scotland.

Delivering his first address to NFU Scotland’s annual conference since being elected in February 2021, Martin Kennedy said that Scotland’s agricultural sector has never been under so much pressure.

According to NFU Scotland, the country’s farmers, crofters and producers are facing “crippling, escalating input costs, labour shortages, climate change, imbalanced supply chains, unscrutinised trade deals and continued uncertainty around future policy and support.”

Kennedy highlighted the importance of lobbying government to make sure the issues were resolved: “At every opportunity what we must do is highlight the true value of domestic food and drink production in terms of health, climate change, the environment and the economy.”

He went on to discuss the labour crisis and steps in place “to encourage a full work force, good education and employment opportunities.” He called for global collaboration within the beef sector to ensure methane emissions are measured consistently using GWP rather than GWP100.

Kennedy also reflected on the crisis the Scottish pig and poultry farmers have been experiencing.

Scottish government response 

Speaking at Friday 11th February’s session of the NFU’s conference, Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon MSP addressed the “unhelpful” supply issues related to red meat in supermarkets. She said: “I want to reassure you that in my dealings with the major food retailers, I do impress upon them the need to support and stock Scottish produce.”

Reading out comments from the audience as part of a Q and A with the MSP, Kennedy addressed the ongoing pig industry crisis. He said: “This is a really serious issue. The economic turnaround and investment that goes into the pig sector, and the economic return from the pig sector is massive in Scotland.”

He added: “We appreciate your help but there’s more to be done.”

Gougeon replied, stating that she recognised the specific challenges that the pig sector has faced. She said: “That’s why we wanted to offer another round of the hardship scheme, recognising the difficulties that are ongoing there.”

She added that the Scottish government were “[continuing] to press and [trying] to get movement on a lot of these issues” as part of discussions with the UK government. She said that the Scottish government are looking to see how it “can better support the industry.” 

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