DEFRA launches food security debate

A consultation on securing sustainable food supplies in Britain has been launched by DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn.

In a discussion paper on ensuring the UK’s food security, Mr Benn said the UK was currently secure in its food supplies.

However, it was important to consider whether the UK’s food supply chain was “sufficiently resilient” to deal with both short-term shocks and long-term challenges.

The paper, which will feed into a more detailed food security policy later this year, poses five key questions for the industry to comment on, and DEFRA will hold workshops over the coming months to encourage discussion

“Recent food price rises across the world have shone a light on the challenges all countries face in ensuring food supplies at reasonable prices,” Mr Benn said.

“That’s why it’s sensible to think about the impact of these challenges so that we can plan effectively for the future and identify any further steps that may be needed, bearing in mind that as well as domestic production, we also rely on being able to import food.”

The key questions posed in the report are:

1. Whether Defra has correctly identified the challenges facing global and UK food security.

2. What the views of the food industry and wider public are about the action the UK Government is taking globally and domestically to address these challenges and ensure food security.

3. What further role the agricultural, retail, and food service sectors can play in ensuring UK food security.

4. Whether the food security indicators cover the right areas and measure the right things.

5. What steps we should take together if the indicators suggest there is a problem.

The NFU welcomed the fact the consultation recognised the importance of UK agriculture in contributing to food security, but said it was disappointed by the lack of concrete proposals.

Peter Kendal, NFU president, said: “This is, for me, a sign that DEFRA has yet to acknowledge that action on food security should start at home.

“At a time when both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are highlighting the importance of food production, it seems incongruous to focus on other countries and not on what can and needs to be done at the domestic level.”

The consultation process closes on September 15.