Coronavirus has had an impact on every part of our lives and it is easy to think that it has all been for the worst. So are there any positives to come out of the pandemic?
There are many lessons to be learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, but there are some success stories too. The UK food industry proved that under unprecedented pressure the food supply chain was able to step up to the mark and ensure a continued supply of food to meet the needs of consumers during times of adversity. Not only was the food supply chain able to meet this demand, but it continued to ensure that the food produced and supplied to consumers was of the highest quality and welfare standards possible. This is something the UK as a food producer is well known for. This highlighted the resilience and importance of the UK food supply chain.
The pandemic did, however, also highlight our reliance on imports. The UK will never be able to achieve 100% self sufficiency, but in the 1980's we reached levels of c.75% self sufficiency in food. Today we are around the 60-65% self sufficiency level for food. This is a concerning drop and couple this with the numbers of farmers leaving the industry every year, we could ask the question 'is that level set to drop even further'?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that even the unimaginable can sometimes become reality so we must not become complacent. We see that there are real opportunities for farmers going forwards to drive self sufficiency back up to previous levels and build support for good quality, high welfare UK produce. National security has become even more of a concern to those in power (the recent 5G debate has highlighted this), but the fear is that food security is not included in this. In a recent article in The Grocer, it was highlighted that what is really needed is not just an assurance that UK farmers will be supported, but that cheap imports will not be favoured over home produced food to 'secure a trade deal with the US at any cost'. What is really needed is a rethink of the UK food strategy to ensure we have a sustainable, resilient long term food industry that is able to continue producing high quality food for UK consumers through good and bad times.
Whilst much of this change will need to be driven by those in power, it is up to us in the food industry to ensure a continued supply of good quality, nutritious food, limit waste where possible and continue to improve efficiency within our systems. It is time to ensure that your business is in a position to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise during this time of change.
If you would like guidance and support on reviewing and planning the next steps for your farming business, please call our office and one of our consultants would be happy to discuss strategies in more detail with you.