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Farming

Food coalition demands supply chain fix

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A COALITION of leading food and farming businesses warns that the UK faces a deepening food supply chain crisis unless the government takes urgent action to fix the industry’s structural issues.

Last week, Minette Batters chaired the Food Security Summit: Serious about British food. The organisations there called on the government to set a positive food and farming policy that creates a resilient and sustainable supply chain to underpin domestic food security.

ONGOING ISSUES

The summit took place at the end of a year that saw the first-ever mass cull of healthy pigs in the UK, a shortage of seasonal workers that threatened fruit and veg being left unpicked in fields, a shortage of lorry drivers, a limited choice of products on supermarket shelves and a rise in imports due to domestic supply chain issues.

Alongside this, record inflationary pressures have affected energy, feed and fertiliser prices.

NFU President Minette Batters explained, “Britain’s farmers are world-leaders in producing climate-friendly food and, over the past 18 months, have been working hard to keep shelves and fridges full despite many being impacted by severe supply chain issues, particularly worker shortages.

“Government has tried to paper over the cracks with short-term fixes, but if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage.”

“The UK Government has tried to paper over the cracks with short-term fixes, but if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage.”

Minette Batters has been calling on the government to ensure that Britain maintains its self-sufficiency level.

She went on to say, “A start would be a serious commitment from government to, at the very least, maintain Britain’s food production self-sufficiency level at 60% and helping to create an environment for farm and food businesses to thrive and compete in the coming years.”

WORKING TOGETHER

Throughout the pandemic, there have been issues, including rising energy prices and worker shortages. These have combined to increase the pressures on the food industry.

Recognising the importance of the summit, Jayne Almond, Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs, Food and Drink Federation, said: “There is no better industry than food and drink – from farm to fork – to level up the United Kingdom.

“With a footprint in every constituency, food and drink provides local jobs and makes a significant contribution to the UK’s economic performance. However, supply chain issues and rising costs challenge manufacturers like never before.

“This important summit must consider how we can work together to support our producers and manufacturers, while ensuring UK shoppers continue to get the food and drink they want, at the right price.”

THE PIG SECTOR IS IN MELTDOWN

In what has been a heartbreaking year for the pig sector, Dr Zoe Davies, Chief Executive, National Pig Association, explained that we all need to pull together. She said: “The UK pig sector is still in meltdown as worker shortages continue to impact our ability to process the number of pigs we already have on farms.

“The entire food supply chain and government must pull together and resolve the backlog now, or we will have no independent pig producers left.

“Already 60% of the pork eaten in the UK comes from the EU – it would be a travesty to see this figure increase as more healthy UK pigs are culled on farms and their meat wasted.”

A CLEAR STRATEGY IS NEEDED

Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability, British Retail Consortium, acknowledged how hard food retailers and producers have been working post-Brexit; he explained, “The government needs a coherent food policy to maintain UK production, including a clear strategy for solving labour shortages throughout the supply chain.

“Food retailers and producers are working hard to adapt to a post-Brexit world, ensuring supply chains can continue to deliver quality and affordable food for everyone.”

INCREASING COSTS

Ash Amirahmadi, Managing Director, Arla Foods UK, said that pressure on the supply chain would result in price increases: “The UK food and farming sector is experiencing shortages in a range of areas caused by local and global factors that are putting real pressure on the supply chain, increasing costs and, ultimately, prices.

“The UK is one of the most environmentally competitive beef producers globally.

“We have the opportunity to further enhance this position and become a global leader through improved use of data and technology at farm level and adopting a whole farm approach to sustainable beef production.”

Bob Carnell, Chief Executive, ABP UK, added: “These strains are not going to go away as we work to become even more sustainable and compete for the best people to come into our industry.

“Collaboration between government, the industry and farmers is the only way to address this for the long-term and all of us at Arla are ready to play our part.”

Mr Carnell reiterated the need for a level playing field when comparing British meat to imported meat. He said, “The UK is one of the most environmentally competitive beef producers globally.

“We have the opportunity to enhance this position further and become a global leader through improved use of data and technology at farm level and adopting a whole farm approach to sustainable beef production.

“To help deliver and give UK consumers and other markets access to the best beef in the world, we need to attract and retain more skilled workers from home and abroad and ensure a level playing field for quality British meat when compared to imports.”

ENGAGING WITH GOVERNMENT

The food security summit comes after Minette Batters, and her team met MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum to discuss the important issues ahead for farmers in 2022. The event was sponsored by Fay Jones, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak paid tribute to British agriculture and spoke about the importance of rural communities.

In his remarks, he paid tribute to the work the NFU does in Westminster and on the ground, supporting members across England and Wales.

BUY LOCAL

Mr Sunak encouraged all those attending to buy local and sustainable British produce over the festive period and also spoke about the government’s eight new agri-food and drink attachés – something the NFU has long been lobbying for.

Minette Batters thanked the Chancellor for the government’s support for businesses during the pandemic, which provided a lifeline for many businesses across the food and drink sector.

She reiterated to the Chancellor the importance of maintaining our self-sufficiency in food, the need for the government to support innovation in the sector and the importance of ensuring that the government’s agenda reaches rural areas.Ms Batter concluded: “Whatever the rules post-Christmas, the NFU will continue to work hard to engage with MPs and Peers from all political parties to keep farming at the heart of Westminster.”

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Farming

Welsh Conservatives mark Welsh Food and Farming Week

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A FOOD SUMMIT and support for an innovative piece of legislation to precision-breed plants and animals to boost food production is top of Conservative calls on Welsh Food and Farming Week.

The NFU’s annual showcase of the best of Welsh agriculture has seen the Official Opposition in the Senedd call on the Labour Government to deliver on the summit that would bring together farmers, food processors, and retailers.

The meeting would aim to make Wales more resilient to the supply chain disruption caused by the war in Ukraine, currently contributing to the rising cost of living, including food prices.

The Labour Government is currently resisting the Welsh Conservative-proposed summit. The Rural Affairs Minister appeared to ignore Mark Drakeford’s instructions after she dismissed the idea of a Food Summit 24 hours after he said he would instruct her to ask industry leaders if one was needed.

A few weeks later, Mark Drakeford struggled to justify previous comments he made when he said “there is no crisis in the food sector” after the Governor of the Bank of England said families will face apocalyptic food price rises due to supply chain problems caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Samuel Kurtz MS is also calling on Labour ministers to back the UK Conservative Government’s Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill. The legislation will remove unnecessary barriers to research into new gene editing technology, long held back by EU’s rules.

The Bill will make the UK the best place in the world to invest in agri-food research and innovation; use technology to develop precision-bred plants and animals to bolster food production, resistance to pests and diseases, and resilience to climate change; and reduce pesticide usage to lower costs to farmers and protect the environment.

Mr Kurtz will be participating in this week’s activities with a farm visit, attending the NFU’s Senedd event, and being one of the speakers at a headline event in Pembrokeshire.

Commenting, Samuel Kurtz, Welsh Conservative MS and Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, said:

“I am delighted that NFU Cymru’s Welsh Food and Farming Week is back. With a host of events planned, it is yet another opportunity for us all to promote the fantastic agricultural sector we have in Wales.

“With food shortages a real possibility due to the war in Ukraine, we need all parts of the supply chain to get together, from producer to retailer, supported by the Welsh Government, to develop a plan to ensure our high-quality Welsh produce continues to find its way onto the tables of the people of Wales.

“Indeed, one way to bolster food production and protect ourselves from hostile actors in future is the passage UK legislation to open up innovation in precision-bred plants and animals. But we need this to apply in Wales too and hope Cardiff Bay ministers back this new law.

“But together, we can all back British and Welsh farming by buying local products, supporting our local farmers markets, butchers, and greengrocers. As the old saying goes: ‘If you ate today, thank a farmer.’”

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS added:

“Welsh Food and Farming Week is a great opportunity to talk about the benefits farmers and producers bring to Welsh society and the economy, but we must also highlight areas where the Labour Government need to act.

“The Food Summit that we have been calling for to ensure that the supply chain is resilient to global shocks is essential and the First Minister’s reluctance to act is troubling.

“I hope he uses this week, of all weeks, to change that and bring together all facets of the food sector to ensure food in Wales is stable in price and provision.

“Over the last 30 years the country has gone from being 75% self-sufficient in the food we grow to under 60%. Given what is happening in the Ukraine and the desperate pressure the war is having on food supplies and household budgets. It is vital the Labour Government reverse the decline in domestic food production and use the long-delayed Agriculture Bill to single a renaissance in Welsh agriculture.”

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Farming

Roy Noble joins campaign to stop mass tree-planting on agricultural land

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ONE of Wales’ best-loved broadcasters has joined countryside campaigners in calling on the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to stop mass tree-planting on prime agricultural land, while also urging them to curtail ‘outside interests’ and ‘juggernaut companies’ from doing the same.

Roy Noble, who has been a constant feature on Welsh radio and TV for decades, said in a ‘personal plea to high officialdom’ that he had “real empathy” with farming families who “are out-bid” for land purchases by “financial combines”, who use it to offset their carbon emissions elsewhere by planting trees. He accused them of having “no empathy for, or real understanding of farming or the countryside”.

Appealing to the Welsh public, the OBE recipient argued that taking away agricultural land for tree planting risked limiting Wales’ ability to be self-sufficient and threatened food security.

He said: “The tragic and awful events unfolding in Ukraine and the world’s extreme financial strain currently impacting on our country should focus the mind and underline priorities, one being self-sufficiency. It stands at around 60% in Wales at present I believe, but experts agree, from the farming world and beyond that it could be vastly improved with official support. Of course, we cannot produce everything, but a greater percentage is a realistic goal.”

Mr Noble, who worked as a teacher before embarking on a career in broadcast, argued that tree planting has benefits when done in the ‘right place with the right trees’ stating: “Without a doubt, planting trees is regarded and accepted as a way to combat the climate emergency and global warming, but ‘right trees, right place, right effect’ is, I feel, an acceptable mantra in that process. Planting on productive, rich arable land, surely is not, and, if done, the implication and effect will last generations.”

He pointed at rural communities in the Cothi Valley, Carmarthenshire, where his ‘maternal lineage lived for many generations’ saying: “Many of the farming families, in all areas of Wales affected, are rooted in their land, their hallowed ground attached as it is to their soul and their very being. Many likely go back to the very early farmers. That heritage deserves recognition and respect, for all they have contributed and will continue to do, feeding a need, in food production, co-operating in climate crisis initiatives, and working with government and agricultural bodies on sensible paths.”

The broadcaster’s intervention comes as a petition, launched by Countryside Alliance Wales and now in its third week, continues to collect hundreds of signatures by the day. The petition, which is online, calls on the Welsh Government and NRW to ‘stop purchasing productive farmland to plant trees which threatens our fragile rural communities, heritage, culture and the Welsh language’.

It further adds: ‘We are deeply concerned about the number of companies purchasing productive farmland for tree planting to offset their carbon emissions and feel that the Welsh Government should further protect our communities from this practice’.

The petition was launched after a Countryside Alliance Freedom of Information request revealed the Welsh Government has spent a staggering £6million buying land with taxpayers’ money.

In February, the Welsh Government announced that new memorial woodlands would be created at three separate sites, including a section of farmland at Brownhill in Carmarthenshire’s Tywi Valley. The plans involve planting at least 60,000 trees, sparking fears that valuable agricultural land will be lost.

In the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold earlier last year to Foresight Group – a multi-billion pound private equity firm based in The Shard. It plans to plant thousands of trees across the valley, prompting locals to launch a fightback, arguing that the afforestation will be largely made up of conifers that could damage soil and have a negative impact on the landscape.

There are also multiple reports of farmers being targeted through cold-calls made by agents working for investors wanting to buy farmland to plant trees.

Rachel Evans, Director of Countryside Alliance Wales said: “It is truly a great honour to receive the support of Roy Noble in what is an incredibly important campaign. We cannot stand by and watch productive agricultural land get swallowed up for tree planting initiatives that while well intentioned, have long term, negative, irreversible consequences for farming families in Wales and threaten our ability to produce our own food. Every signature represents a voice and alongside Roy Noble, we urge the Welsh public to ensure their voices are heard by signing our petition today.”

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Farming

Pembrokeshire County Show returns to Haverfordwest in August

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WALES’ largest agricultural show, which attracts around 100,000 visitors and competitors to the county town of Haverfordwest is back this year after a two-year Covid enforced break.

Pembrokeshire County Show will take place on August 17 and 18, the first open to the public since 2019 it promises to be a celebration of rural life in the county.

The last full-scale show, which would normally attract around 100,000 visitors and competitors, was held in August 2019 followed by a virtual event in 2020 and a scaled down version in 2021 for animals and members only.

Mansel Raymond, Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society president said, “We are very excited about the prospect of seeing our wonderful members, competitors, trade stands, sponsors and community coming together once again this August.

“Whether you’re a Pembrokeshire local or just visiting we’re sure you’ll have a fantastic day out.”

There will be some changes this year to the layout of the County Show to make it a better experience for everyone including the trade stands and visitors.

There will be several smaller rings as was the case in the 2021 members only show.

To enable a much larger public viewing area it has also been decided to remove all marquees and trade stands from the immediate main ringside.

This year there will also be a new open air ‘street food’ area. To enable a smooth transition, it is recommended that all trade and catering stands secure their pitches as soon as possible by visiting www.pembsshow.org or ringing 01437 764 331.

Sponsorship and Pembrokeshire County Show have been a successful combination for the last 45 years.

Sponsors have enjoyed promoting their businesses through the varied mediums of banners, announcements, show rings, buildings, equine and livestock classes and championships over the years.

Anyone interested in sponsorship can contact Richard Cole on 01437 764 331 or complete the form on the society’s website.

Tickets for society members and the public will go on sale in the near future. Visit www.pembsshow.org for up-to-date details of this year’s event. You can also follow Pembrokeshire County Show on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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