Llyr Gruffydd, North Wales MS and Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, explains why the party is launching a new campaign to promote Welsh food.
The terrible toll of Covid-19 in terms of lives lost is also being felt in terms of the economy, in particular the farming industry.
That’s why I’m launching a major new campaign together with Plaid Cymru colleagues to boost the Welsh food industry and farming.
The ’I’m buying local’ campaign is aimed at helping food and drink producers throughout Wales cope with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as building resilience for the future.
It also highlights how the pandemic could, with the right leadership, provide an opportunity to reset the economy.
In terms of our economy and food supplies, the virus has exposed and exacerbated long-ignored issues, including our dependence on imports.
Now is the time to rethink, reset and rebuild our food supply from the ground up.
The UK Government has steadily withdrawn from food policy and allowed our food retail industry to become ever more concentrated in a few hands. Just four companies control 70 per cent of the UK food retail market.
The large food retailers have used that concentration of power to dictate ever lower prices to farmers, continually sapping the financial health of domestic agriculture.
Our food production model was fundamentally flawed even before Covid-19. Yet for many people and even the UK Government, the frailties and dangers of the current food supply model only became apparent when they saw empty shelves day after day as panic buying shattered the now fractured supply chain.
Plaid Cymru has a long-standing commitment to addressing the crisis in the food industry in Wales that starts with a local procurement policy.
Some councils in Wales procure school dinner basics such as potatoes and bread from Rochdale and Liverpool.
Hundreds of millions of pounds leak out of the Welsh public purse each year because local producers and enterprises are overlooked or unable to compete with the bigger corporations.
Building a resilient food industry means not only backing our farmers but also developing processing and developing added value for our raw materials.
To achieve that, we need a strong united voice for the Welsh food industry to protect and support our food producers and agriculture.
In Wales, our farmers not only stewards of our environment but are also the economic backbone of rural communities and market towns.
Welsh agriculture plays a vital role in the broader economy, achieving record exports worth over a half a billion pounds in 2018 and acting as the bedrock to the Welsh food and drink sector, which employs over 240,000 workers.
The ’I’m Buying Local’ campaign is designed to put additional focus on the high-quality local food produced throughout Wales to improve food security and farmers’ incomes.
This campaign will encourage consumers to buy more locally produced food, keeping value in the local economy, our environmental footprint low and strengthening community institutions like local government, farmers’ markets and the local high street.
That is why Plaid Cymru continues to work with the farming unions and rural enterprises to promote a food strategy that encourages buying local produce to support the local economy.
This would inject demand into our rural economies, consideration for the environment and sustainability into how we trade and ensure a fair price and choice for consumers and producers.
With scenes of unharvested crops and farmers pouring milk down the drain because of lack of demand now a daily sight in Wales, we must remember that these are not problems caused by the pandemic.
This has being brewing for some time due to our failing food supply model.
Only if we are ambitious and clear that we cannot return to business as usual that led to this, can we deliver food security and build resilience in our society and economy.
Plaid Cymru’s campaign will use the #ImBuyingLocal hashtag on social media and elected party representatives will be promoting their own local food producers as part of the strategy.
• If you have a local food store or producer you want to highlight as part of the campaign, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org