Government urged to provide support and increase stability in food sector

Government urged to provide support and increase stability in food sector

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) urged Government to remain focused on the food supply chain, stressing to the Chancellor the importance of confidence and stability in the sector.

Minette Batters, president of the NFU.

Six months after the Farm to Fork Summit hosted by Number 10 in May 2023, NFU has called for Government to prioritise food security and fair farming.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “Food security should always remain a top priority for any Government. It is not just about sustaining farmers; it’s about safeguarding a fundamental part of our nation’s resilience and stability via a secure supply of homegrown food.

“Britain’s farmers and growers have faced a perfect storm of challenges in recent months, including crippling input costs, volatile supply chains and extreme weather events, against a backdrop of changes to farm support and agricultural policy. These have all created unsustainable levels of uncertainty and low confidence across the sector.

“After meeting with the new Defra Secretary of State Steve Barclay the day after his appointment this week, I pressed the need for urgent action on the vitally important sector reviews that are taking place. They must have tangible impact on the relationship with farmers and the supply chain. Currently farmers and growers bear the brunt of the risks and cost within the food supply chain and this is unsustainable for all involved.”

Batters continued: “This reality is playing out in real time with a fractured sugar supply chain – an acute example of the burden put on primary producers. Meanwhile, other sectors such as dairy, eggs and horticulture remain under pressure as Defra conducts the promised supply chain investigations in each one.

“It has been six months since I sat down at the Farm to Fork summit with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and I appreciate the positive steps that have been made. We called for a national food security summit and a Government commitment to work towards 60% self-sufficiency, both of which have happened, as well as the new agri-food attachés to help sell more British food abroad.

“But I have urged the new Secretary of State to ensure Defra’s supply chain reviews within the dairy, horticulture and poultry sectors deliver much-needed improvements to the operation, fairness and transparency for all farmers and growers, so we can continue what we do best – provide high-quality, climate-friendly food for the nation.”

Treasury “must deliver” for food sector in Autumn Statement

In a letter to the Chancellor ahead of the Autumn Statement on Wednesday 22nd November, NFU called for support to rebuild confidence and stability in the UK’s food and farming sector.

In the letter, Batters highlighted the opportunity for the Treasury to enable the production of more quality British produce for markets at home and abroad, while also reducing food inflation and stimulating green economic growth.

Some of the NFU’s requests of the Treasury include:

  • To review long-term energy contracts in the commercial sector and improve transparency in the market
  • To lead a cross-Government taskforce to ensure that emerging environmental markets in the UK are well regulated and fit for purpose
  • To support environmentally-friendly farming by expanding income streams to fund the Slurry Infrastructure Grant
  • To introduce enhanced capital allowances to incentivise investments in low-carbon technology and infrastructure.

Batters said: “If we are to ensure a secure supply of sustainable, homegrown food now and in the future, what British farming needs more than anything is investment.

“With farm input costs through the roof, interest rates rising and at least a 50% reduction in the current direct payments in 2023, farmers are facing incredibly challenging economic circumstances.

“As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, it’s imperative British food and farming has sufficient funding for the capital investments that are needed – whether that’s investing in the environment, energy efficiency or productivity. Because farmers and growers want to do more for sustainable food production and the environment, but we can’t do either without profitable businesses.

“At this year’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor could really inject some much-needed stability and confidence into the UK’s food and farming sector. As well as delivering short-term certainty, the NFU’s asks will also help build the foundation for a long-term farming framework, incorporating both public and private finance, to deliver the country’s environmental and food security needs.”

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