NFU president Minette Batters

Minette Batters

A coalition of leading food and farming businesses has warned that the UK faces a deepening food supply chain crisis unless government takes urgent and meaningful action to fix the structural issues facing the industry.

The organisations are calling on government to set out a 'positive food and farming policy that creates a resilient and sustainable supply chain to underpin domestic food security'.

The group includes industry bodies NFU, Food & Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium and National Pig Association, as well as producers Barfoots of Botley, Arla UK and ABP.

It comes as a food and farming summit took place this week 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.

'Papering over the cracks'

NFU president Minette Batters said: “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.

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

Jayne Almond, director of policy and corporate affairs at the Food & Drink Federation, added: “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 are challenging 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.”