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Sustain's parliamentary workshop on food supply chains

In a recent online roundtable with MPs and Peers, chaired by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, participants heard how farmers want better supply chains, new infrastructure and fairer routes to market.

Levelling Up Food and Farming Roundtable, 2nd December 2021

The Sustain alliance held an online event for MPs and Peers form the Houses of Parliament to discuss the needs that 500 farmers from England and Wales identified in our recent survey.

Vicki Hird started the session by outlining the findings from the survey. In her presentation, Vicki explained that:

  • 95% of farmers wanted to change their supply chain
  • This would help them gain fairer prices for produce, sell more produce, achieve a more resilient business, and be rewarded to deliver more for climate and nature.
  • Barriers to changing supply chain included a lack of access to finance, local infrastructure and social networks, digital and marketing advice.
  • Over 50% of respondents want to join or start a cooperative or farmer buying group, with another 25% saying they would consider this.

Vicki outlined a set of recommendations for local and national  Government. This included: the development of Growth Action Plans at the local level that to help increase shorter supply chains and local food systems to 25% of market share by 2035, investment from levelling up and other Government funds in new infrastructure and networks, planning guidance that supports local food supply chains, and the use of dynamic procurement models to support local small-scale farmers.

Josiah Meldrum from Hodmedodd - a pulse and grain trader - gave a powerful presentation on the creation of the Hodmedodd enterprise and how he believes many of the answers lies in new local food networks. This delivers better livelihoods, good wages and increased investment through building close relationships with local farmers, processors, packers and manufacturers.

The discussion then addressed key issues that undermine local food systems such as commodity prices, cheap food and the importation of foods produced to lower standards. The speakers suggested that there is a need for stronger UK trade policy that reduces impacts on UK food and farming standards, as well as the need for a vision on regional and local food networks that connect citizens and farmers. A key driver should be working towards stronger local economies where money is not siphoned out of the area.

Shadow Defra Minister Daniel Zeichner MP asked how we ensure there is fairness in the supply chain and noted that we are expecting the new statutory codes on dairy and pig supply chains in 2022. Vicki welcomed this as a start to delivering on the much needed regulatory baseline for supply chain behaviour, as envisaged in the Agriculture Act 2020. The new Defra Sustainable Farming Incentive and Agriculture Transition Plan were also noted as possible tools for helping drive farmer action on environmental goals whilst also supporting new supply chains and adding value on farms through capital grants and investment.

The session concluded with some key recommendations for legislation and action by businesses including:

  • A Food Bill that brings forward legislation on public food procurement standards and manadatory reporting for supermarkets that builds transparency into the system.
  • A vision for shorter local supply chains with locally developed Growth Action Plans that can identify opportunities for growth.
  • Directing public money worth £500 million from existing funds, like the Levelling Up Fund, towards investing in infrastructure and local networks.
  • Better regulation of supermarkets, large manufacturers and distributors, to create an even playing field for both farmers and local smaller scale supply chains enterprises and markets.
  • Speed up the process to consult on and introduce new Statutory Codes of Practice for supermarkets and other large supply chain actors.
  • And a Local Food and Farming Planning Framework that explicitly supports a transition to agroecology, farmer-focused supply chains and local food systems.

 

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Published 9 Dec 2021

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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