Government Food Strategy

Published date : 13 June, 2022
I welcome the advance sight that I had of the statement. Agrifood is a hugely significant industry, providing a great deal of employment. It is also of huge strategic importance to us as a country. It is therefore quite troubling—I hope the Secretary of State will appreciate quite how troubled I am by this—that the National Farmers Union president, Minette Batters, said earlier today that the industry is in “absolute crisis”.

It is easy to see why. We have massive labour shortages, we have food going unpicked and we have food being ploughed back into the fields. I welcome the 40,000 visas that have been announced, including the 10,000 additional visas, but that barely scratches the surface of demand across Scotland, let alone the rest of the UK, when it comes to tackling these issues. It is imperative that we do all we can during this heightened cost of living crisis to support our producers to maximise the quantities of food we produce domestically, so that we can keep costs down.

We have problems at our borders. Thanks to the Brexit we have chosen, there is effectively a free-for-all when it comes to goods coming in, but massive barriers and trade frictions when it comes to us exporting goods. The all-party parliamentary group on fisheries has today produced a report that makes for grim reading for anyone in the industry, or with a care for it, given how Brexit has played out. In addition, we have a continued welfare crisis in our pork industry, and farm incomes remain at historic lows.

It is hard to encourage people to buy as we might wish them to, when they are grinding against the cost of living crisis and, in some cases, struggling to pay for the energy necessary to boil vegetables or even to make something as simple, basic and nourishing as a bowl of soup.

We therefore need to take steps to put our food strategy on the same basis as we would an energy strategy. We need to tackle energy prices, the cost of fertiliser and the debilitating shortage of labour. We need to support rather than undermine our producers when it comes to food and welfare standards. We need to support the industry as the custodian not just of our food chain and supply but our landscape. Finally, we absolutely need to make sure that the industry plays its part in feeding our people and battling the cost of living crisis.

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