Talk more to food industry, committee tells policy makers

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

More dialogue is needed between the food industry and policy makes to ensure future food security in the UK, with an increase in sustainable domestic production, says a new government report.

The report, published today, highlights the need to increase production in the UK. “If people go hungry then political stability goes out of the window,” ​said Rt Hon Michael Jack, chairman if the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee (EFRA).

But amongst a 138 recommendations, the report calls for more input from the food sector, and asks the governments’ Food Strategy Task Force and the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Food to set out how they plan to get industry more involved in the food security question.

Defra should review its relationship with the food sector to consider how it can encourage the wider food sector to interact with the Council of Food Policy Advisors, the body formed under the auspices of Defra last autumn, it says.

Skills shortages in the food and farming sectors – especially in applied sciences – are also worrisome. In order to encourage more people to develop skills to increase food production, the Committee recommends reintroducing a student scheme that MAFF used to run.

Moreover, to address perceived weakness in understanding how food supply chain works, it suggests that Defra take steps to ensure that dialogue with the food industry leads to action.

A first step could be arranging for more officials to undertake work placements in different parts of the food and farming chain, so they can experience the problems, challenges and possibilities.

Production and procurement

The new report calls for increased production of fruit and vegetables that are suited to the UK’s climate, in a sustainable manner: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and conserving oil and water.

But there is a suggestion that procurement practices of supermarkets, food manufacturers and the food service industry could have a part in the relatively low production levels at present, and Defra is asked to investigate this.

Industry reaction

The report has received a welcome from the food industry; the Food and Drink Federation emphasised the role of food manufacturing in securing the food supply against the effects of climate change, demand and pressure on finite resources.

“Like the EFRA Committee, we believe it is critical that we build on our sector’s inherent strengths by developing a clear vision for production in this country – one that places food and drink manufacturing at the heart of all Government thinking,”​ said Julian Hunt, director of communications.

“We need a policy framework that recognises sustainable food production as a top Government priority in its own right and provides clear support for our sector – both in terms of words and deeds – which we believe will help to attract the skills and investment required to enhance our productive potential. In particular, we agree with the Committee that government should show some leadership by providing more public funding for the food and farming research that will provide the innovation we will need to meet future challenges.”

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