NFU calls for new Defra Secretary to deliver 'urgent action' on fairness

NFU President Minette Batters says food security should remain a top priority for any government (Photo: NFU)
NFU President Minette Batters says food security should remain a top priority for any government (Photo: NFU)

The NFU has called on the new Defra Secretary to deliver 'urgent action' on making the food supply chain fairer for farmers, six months on from the government's pledges.

The union has called for Steve Barclay, the new environment secretary, to deliver on promises made at the Farm to Fork Summit, which was hosted by Number 10 in May.

The summit aimed to discuss measures needed to build resilience and transparency in the UK’s food supply chain.

But the NFU has said there are still 'much-needed improvements' to fairness and transparency for farmers and growers across all sectors.

Farmers have faced a perfect storm of challenges in recent months, including high input costs, volatile supply chains and extreme weather events, against a backdrop of changes to farm support and agricultural policy.

Speaking six months after the Farm to Fork Summit, NFU President Minette Batters said today that food security should always remain a top priority for any government.

After meeting with the new Defra Secretary Steve Barclay this week, she pressed the need for 'urgent action' on the 'vitally important' sector reviews taking place, including in eggs, dairy and horticulture.

"They must have tangible impact on the relationship with farmers and the supply chain," Mrs Batters said.

"Currently farmers and growers bear the brunt of the risks and cost within the food supply chain and this is unsustainable for all involved.

“This reality is playing out in real time with a fractured sugar supply chain – an acute example of the burden put on primary producers."

Meanwhile, other sectors such as dairy, eggs and horticulture remain under pressure as Defra conducts the promised supply chain investigations in each one.

It follows a series of challenges experienced by the sectors, including increased energy and feed costs, which have raised questions about the fairness of the supply chain.

Many farms have seen energy bills increase by tens of thousands of pounds while feed costs have risen by 50% or more.

Transport, labour and the costs have all gone up too, leaving producers struggling to make a profit, or in the worst cases, ceasing production altogether.

Mrs Batters said: “It has been six months since I sat down at the Farm to Fork summit with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and I appreciate the positive steps that have been made.

"We called for a national food security summit and a government commitment to work towards 60% self-sufficiency, both of which have happened, as well as the new agri-food attachés to help sell more British food abroad.

“But I have urged the new Secretary of State to ensure Defra’s supply chain reviews within the dairy, horticulture and poultry sectors deliver much-needed improvements to the operation, fairness and transparency for all farmers and growers."