The latest dire warning on the catastrophe of climate change came today with hundreds of the world’s leading scientists in the space predicting global temperatures will blast past internationally agreed targets and cause devastating consequences for humanity and the planet.

A report in the Guardian found only 6% of them thought the internationally agreed 1.5C (2.7F) target would be met.

So it’s not before time that food industry bosses and the government are launching talks on how they can try to tackle the looming disaster, with the food supply chain directly in its line of travel and also a key contributor.

Today The Grocer reveals that a new ‘resilience group’, chaired by the managing director of Booths, Nigel Murray, is being launched to agree on government and industry action that can respond to the crisis.

It comes hard on the heels of an IGD report in March, which concluded tackling threats to the resilience group or the supply chain was of the utmost urgency for all sectors of the food industry, with climate change, water shortages and biodiversity loss among a series of key challenges.

Supply chain cooperation

Recruitment is now taking place to find senior executives from supermarkets, suppliers, the hospitality sector and agriculture to sit on the roundtable, which will meet every four weeks for the next three months and then quarterly thereafter.

The aim is to create measures that will lead to improved cooperation across the entire supply chain, from farm to fork. That phrase has been bandied around so often in the past few years it’s become a cliché, but there are still too few examples of this creating true collaboration across the supply chain.

In contrast there have been all too many disastrous examples of “collaboration” between Defra and the industry. The seemingly never ending debacle over DRS and the shambles of Therese Coffey’s crisis talks to save EPR spring to mind.

However, the covid crisis showed that Defra and the industry could work together, with the collaboration showed by its so called War Room, widely praised for the collective response.

This week’s moves to tackle labour shortages in the food supply chain, albeit not going far enough for many, at least show the government is trying to do something to respond to the calls for long-term action. 

The pandemic labour shortage doom 

The supply of labour and the other areas on the group’s agenda may not carry the immediate sense of doom that the pandemic brought, but in the medium-to-long term the consequences of these challenges are just as serious.

There ought to be no shortage of labour when it comes to fellow industry bosses ready to join Murray in his efforts, and his and their leadership is going to be vital if the UK is going to really take concrete action to try to avert the various potential disasters facing the food supply chain.

The food resilience group’s focus will be on finding medium-to-long term measures that can be taken across the supply chain to help the government’s so-called NAP3 commitments, which set out to protect the natural environment and support business in adapting to climate change at the same time.

Before the group gets down to business, we will also have to sit through another Food Summit at Number 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is due to meet representatives from across the supply chain next week.

Previously, such gatherings attracted plenty of hot air, but little in the way of concrete plans for action. Hopefully the resilience group will provide just the opposite.