The Labour Party will seek views on food policy over the coming months – and has asked farmers to help shape its approach.
Food production and processing sector underpinned the UK economy – as well as its society, shadow farm minister Huw Irranca-Davies told farmers.
Amid the ongoing horsemeat furore, it was important to remember there was much to be proud of in farming and food production, said Mr Irranca-Davies.
We should be using every opportunity to laud the best of British food production and processing,” he told delegates at the NFU annual conference in Birmingham.
But the importance of farming to wider society was equally if not more important – and society must wise-up about food choices.
Pressing issues included renewing the whole supply chain to ensure quality, fresh, nutritious and affordable produce with clear and honest provenance.
New links in the supply-chain should give real transparency, real assurance to the consumer that what’s on the fork was produced to the highest standards, said Mr Irranca-Davies.
Food should be what it says on the label – with fairness across the supply-chain from primary producer to point-of-sale, he told delegates.
“Labour does not accept that a reckless race to the bottom is good for the consumer, or the producer.
“A relentless drive to rock-bottom prices below the real costs of production means something is compromised, whether that’s standards and potentially safety with horsemeat, or dairy farmers squeezed as we’ve seen recently, and so on.”
It could not be right that the “beggar-the-hindmost race to the bottom on food prices” was ultimately good for consumers.
“Affordable food yes, competition yes, but sacrificing standards or safety or nutritional content for households with less to spend? Not acceptable. We – together – can do better.”
For more on this topic
News from the NFU conference 2013