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Industry calls for 'transformative' change within food systems in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic

Industry has called for transformative, long-lasting change in food systems across the sector in the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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Industry calls for 'transformative' change within food systems in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic

It came as consumers recognised the important role British farmers played in keeping the nation fed during the lockdown.

 

A survey by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) showed widespread desire among industry for more collaboration and diversity, with 90 per cent of respondents supporting investment in shorter supply chains, 85 per cent calling for better pay and conditions for land-based work and 70 per cent wanting more power and resources devolved to local governments and communities.


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Transformative

 

FFCC chairman Sir Ian Cheshire said: “Lockdown has shown that the UK’s food system has the capacity for rapid and transformative change.

 

“Our survey captures this major shift and a huge energy to do things differently.

 

“Nobody who responded wanted to go back to where we were just three months ago.

 

“People made strong connections between food and nature, the importance of local diversity and resilience, and the need for collective leadership.

 

“It emphasises how much the countryside is at the heart of our nation and how important it will be for everyone to be able to play their part in a green recovery.”

 

Collaboration

 

Prof Tom MacMillan from the Royal Agricultural University, who led the study as FFCC’s research director, said the survey highlighted the ‘spirit of collaboration’ within the sector.

 

“This is a fiercely competitive industry often locked in polarised arguments over issues such as farming versus nature or local versus global,” Prof MacMillan added.

 

"People are fired up by what they have achieved together and what has proved possible, both in big businesses and in local communities.”

Impact

 

However, more than half of respondents (59 per cent) expected recession and business failures to have a bigger long-term impact than recent changes in behaviour and values, such as a surge in home-cooking and attitudes to nature.

 

Anecdotal scepticism about whether the change in consumer habits seen recently will continue post lockdown has surfaced in recent weeks, with some farmers expecting buyers to return to ’normal convenience’ buying patterns.

 

Aylett Longland-Roan, Roan’s Dairy, South West Scotland, tweeted: “Covid-19 has pushed my depression and stress to the limit. As a business, we have gone above and beyond to help people who cannot get out. Then this: ’I’d like to cancel my milk delivery. I am able to get it from the supermarket now’.”

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