The government must do more to back British food production or risk seeing empty shelves in supermarkets across the country, the NFU has warned.
The union said that British food was 'under threat' as farmers continue to see soaring energy costs and crippling workforce shortages,
Pictures have circulated on social media of empty egg shelves, and UK fruit and veg growers have also warned their sector is under huge pressure.
Other sectors could soon be under threat from immediate supply issues caused by a lack of fairness for farmers and growers throughout the supply chain, the NFU said today.
The warning was made at an emergency press conference convened by the NFU, on the same day as NFU horticulture board members gathered for an extraordinary meeting about ongoing shortages in its workforce.
NFU President Minette Batters urged the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to honour the commitments he made to support British farmers through the energy crisis.
The government should also set a target for the nation’s food security, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels.
Mrs Batters said British food was "critical to our nation’s security and success", which follows a similar statement made by the former Director General of MI5, The Baroness Manningham-Buller, who last week said that food was part of the UK's critical national infrastructure.
"I couldn’t agree more, particularly at a time when global volatility is threatening the stability of the world’s food production, food security and energy security," Mrs Batters said.
“We have already seen the egg supply chain crippled under the pressure caused by these issues and I fear the country is sleepwalking into further food supply crises, with the future of British fruit and vegetable supplies in trouble.
"We need government and the wider supply chain to act now - tomorrow could well be too late.”
What are the NFU's key asks?
The NFU has issued numerous key asks for the government:
• An urgent investigation by Defra into whether an “exceptional market conditions” declaration should be made under the Agriculture Act 2020, given the severe disruption which egg producers and UK consumers are experiencing.
• Back in early 2021, the government announced it would regulate dairy contracts to enable fairer terms for dairy farmers, but this still hasn’t happened. The government must progress with their plans to bring fairness in the dairy sector.
• Fruit and veg growers need fair treatment and confidence to invest and a commitment from government to lift the cap on the seasonal worker scheme to increase the number of visas available to meet the sector’s essential workforce needs
• British food and farming needs to be a political priority. Promises made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in August 2022, need to be delivered
• Agriculture and horticulture must be seen as a vulnerable sector in regard to energy security.