Food security lacking from election campaigns, open letter says

Food and drink organisations have written an open letter to party leaders, expressing their frustration over the lack of food security coverage in their campaigns.

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Party leaders are being asked to set out how they will support domestic food and farming, and ensure resilient supply chains.

Key farming and food organisations have criticised the parties for omitting food security from their public election campaigning.

The NFU, British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality and Food and Drink Federation have written an open letter expressing their frustration on the issue.

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Worrying blind spot

Despite major challenges such as Brexit, Covid-19, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK’s food system has shown itself to be ‘efficient and resilient’, the letter says. 

However, supply chains have come under ‘severe strain’ at times, leading to shortages of some food and drink products and increasing costs.

‘It would be foolhardy to assume that our food system will always withstand shocks, especially against the backdrop of increased geo-political instability and climate change,’ the letter states.

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‘The basic responsibility of any government is to ensure its citizens are safe and properly fed. 

‘But while we have heard much about defence and energy security in recent weeks, we have heard very little about food security. 

‘The lack of focus on food in the political narrative during the campaigns demonstrates a worrying blind-spot for those that would govern us.’

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It’s not just about food security

A thriving food and drink sector has multiple benefits for the UK, beyond food security, the organisations continue. 

It’s an engine for economic growth, provides employment at all entry levels and allows our natural environment to be managed sustainably.

Additionally, a well-functioning supply chain gives consumers access to a wide range of fresh produce and healthy food. This is crucial to improving diets and alleviating pressure on the health service, the letter adds.

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Urgent priorities

The letter also sets out six urgent priorities for the next government, covering trade, planning and the agricultural budget, among other areas.

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The six urgent priorities are: 

  • A planning system that allows investment in modern buildings and infrastructure
  • Work with the food and drink sector to deliver a plan to achieve our net zero ambitions
  • A coherent industrial policy that includes a tax framework incentivising investment, fosters research and innovation in the UK, takes a joined-up approach to immigration, skills and employment policies that ensure the sector has access to the labour it needs
  • An agricultural budget that enables the delivery of environmental objectives, delivers targets for climate and biodiversity
  • An approach to trade that seeks to reduce non-tariff barriers with key trading partners
  • A long-term partnership with industry to tackle obesity and health inequalities in communities across the UK.

READ MORE: Green manifesto: Party would triple funding for nature-friendly farming 

The organisations commented: ‘We should never take our food security for granted, and whoever forms the next government will need to address these issues as a priority.’

These six policies can provide the key ingredient – confidence ­– allowing the industry to invest in the future, drive productivity and lead the way in energy efficiency, the letter concludes.

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