With Covid-19 magnifying the strategic importance of domestic food production following major supply chain disruption, the National Beef Association (NBA) has warned Government must take food security ‘seriously’.
In an open letter to Defra Secretary George Eustice (May 19), NBA chief executive Neil Shand highlighted Government must commit to implementing a ‘stable framework’ to protect Britain’s home producers.
It comes as industry leaders were left disappointed by the Government’s push to pass the Agriculture Bill with little change to its food security measures despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
Pointing to recent shortages in supermarkets due to panic-buying, the letter said: “Imagine a scenario where we have a situation, which forces us to close our borders. And we have in excess of 2000 trucks a day, which come in from Europe to feed our country. In less than 10 days, shelves would be empty of the majority of fresh food.”
Despite Government’s legal requirement to carry out five-yearly audits on the UK’s food security as part of the new Agriculture Bill, Mr Shand urged an objective baseline study would now need to be conducted as the Bill is introduced, in order to placate industry fears over domestic food shortages.
“We understand the Government are duty bound to provide an analysis of statistical data every five years to measure the country’s level of food security.
“But it would be sensible to carry out an objective baseline study to allow the performance of the Bill to be compared to a benchmark at its first five-year analysis,” he said.
Mr Shand reinforced this would allow for any potential food security issues that may arise to be identified early, therefore ensuring corrective measures could be implemented in their infancy, rather than ‘five years down the line’.
The NBA concluded by stating it would welcome the opportunity to meet with Mr Eustice to discuss the issues raised, once the crisis became stable.