fruit picking workers

A coalition of major food and farming organisations have warned government needs to do more than just “paper over the cracks with short-term fixes”

The government has been urged to fix the food sector’s supply chain crisis ahead of a major food and farming summit to be held in London today.

Speaking ahead of the summit, a coalition of food and farming organisations led by the NFU warned the government needed to set out “a positive food and farming policy that creates a resilient and sustainable supply chain to underpin domestic food security”.

Failure to do so would ultimately affect the UK’s food self-sufficiency, the group said.

The warnings follow a tumultuous year for a food sector that saw its first-ever mass cull of healthy pigs; coupled with a shortage of seasonal workers that threatened the fruit and veg sector; a shortage of lorry drivers; a limited choice of products on supermarket shelves and a rise in imports due to domestic supply chain issues.

Alongside this, record inflationary pressures have affected energy, feed and fertiliser prices, they warned.

The UK government’s attempts to tackle the crisis were described as a move to “paper over the cracks with short-term fixes”, by NFU president Minette Batters.

“But if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage,” she added.

A start would be a “serious commitment” from government to “at the very least” maintain Britain’s self-sufficiency level at 60% and help “create an environment for farm and food businesses to thrive and compete in the coming years”, Batters suggested.

Her comments were echoed by National Pig Association CEO Zoe Davies, who said it would be “a travesty” if the UK increased its dependence on pork imported from the European Union from current levels, which also stood at 60%.

Davies was backed by ABP UK CEO Bob Carnell, who demanded government “ensure a level playing field for quality British meat when compared to imports.”

Meanwhile, FDF director of policy Jayne Almond said the government “must consider how we can work together to support our producers and manufacturers, while ensuring UK shoppers continue to get the food and drink they want”.

In common with most countries, the UK had been affected all year by what Arla Foods UK MD Ash Amirahmadi said were “shortages in a range of areas caused by local and global factors that are putting real pressure on the supply chain, increasing costs and, ultimately, prices” and by what the NFU said were “record inflationary pressures” on energy, feed and fertiliser prices.

“These strains are not going to go away as we work to become even more sustainable and compete for the best people to come into our industry,” Amirahmadi added.

“Collaboration between government, the industry and farmers is the only way to address this for the long term and all of us at Arla are ready to play our part.”