15 Nov 2023

AIC calls for independent Committee to boost sustainable food security and agri-food productivity

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The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) has used the findings of a major report to call for an independent Food Security Committee to be established to shore up the UK agri-food sector's floundering productivity and sustainably bolster the nation’s food security.

The independent report “Powering Productivity for Sustainable UK Food Security" published today (15 November), was commissioned by AIC – the agricultural supply industry’s trade association – on its 20th anniversary, and recommends that a statutory body is set up to provide oversight of the uniquely complex nature of agricultural productivity and food security.

The independent report, authored by Dr Marcus Bellet-Travers of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), was launched at the AIC Conference in Peterborough on 15 November - the agri-food industry’s flagship event.

To view the full report, visit the AIC website.

 

Watch the video of the report launch at the AIC Conference below.

Robert Sheasby, AIC’s Chief Executive, says: "The unprecedented supply chain shocks of recent years exposed the fragility of the UK’s food supply and its deeply concerning lack of security.

"Productivity in the agri-food industry is complicated and no one policy or innovation drives its progression. It is the sheer breadth and complexity laid out by this report which has led AIC to call for the establishment of an independent UK Food Security Committee."

Chaired independently, this statutory body would advise the UK and devolved governments on the drivers of food security and report to Parliament on progress made in enhancing the productivity and resilience of the UK’s entire agri-food supply chain – from pre-farm suppliers, farmers and growers, through to processors, manufacturers, food service and retailers.

Much like the independent Climate Change Committee, it would take a cross-UK view of the legislative direction, aiding policy development and collaboration in support of our nation’s food security.

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Ed Barker, AIC Head of Policy & External Affairs, launched the Powering Productivity report at AIC Conference 2023

Mr Sheasby adds: “The oversight of such a body for the agri-food industry will significantly enhance our national food security for the long term, well beyond short-term parliamentary cycles. 

"Developing a clear strategy for food security would provide the certainty that businesses desperately need in order to invest in the UK, facilitating investment in Integrated Pest Management, Nitrogen Use Efficiency, as well as innovation in animal feed and precision breeding.

"AIC is encouraging the entire agri-food sector to back this report’s core recommendation and we look forward to collaborating with industry and government to make it happen.

"There is an open and serious question as to where our nation will find itself in the next 20 years if we fail to act now."

The demand is set to form a central pillar of AIC’s lobbying efforts as it prepares for next year’s General Election.

Reacting to AIC's call for an independent UK Food Security Committee, the Farming Minister Mark Spencer MP said: "It looks to be a thorough and impressive report, covering all important themes in detail, such as improving productivity and enhancing the environment. We look forward to reading it in more detail."

Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) Chief Executive George Dunn said: "It is about time that we paid more than lip service to the delivery of our nation’s food security.

"Although the Government has a legislative requirement to ensure that it is encouraging the production of food in the development of its schemes and policies, there is very little if any architecture which truly holds the Government to account in delivering this. Unlike the legal targets that exist for environmental outcomes, there is nothing equivalent to target food security.

"A legally established UK Food Security Committee would give food security the prominence it deserves as part of delivering a healthy and resilient nation".

Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon MS, welcomed the report's findings. She said: "On the importance of giving food security focused attention and dedicated resource - I welcome this report and I agree with its conclusion. The report adds weight to the Scottish Government's realisation that food security matters now more than ever."

Professor Tom MacMillan, Elizabeth Creak Chair in Rural Policy and Strategy at the Royal Agricultural University, added: "Really great to see this from Agricultural Industries Confederation. [The report] covers themes that haven't always been a focus for the agricultural inputs industry, including systems, farmer-led innovation, public health and the value of different shapes and sizes of farm and supply chain. Refreshing strategic leadership for the sector."

Professor Sir Charles Godfray, Oxford Martin School, Oxford University, commented: "I think what AIC is calling for in a UK Food Security Committee is a great idea, we need something like that. There is such an opportunity here and, as an industry, we could do so much more in this area."

Barclays Bank's Head of Agriculture, Adam White, said: "The land use strategy is hugely welcome to support farmers on how their land can be used sustainably. In addition to this practical support and advice is vitally important, providing certainty for farmers."

Eleanor Kay, Senior Policy Adviser (Agriculture & Climate Change), Scottish Land & Estates said: "Scottish agricultural policy is on the cusp of significant change and ever-growing demands on land to deliver for food, the environment and society and this report from AIC arrives at a crucial time.

"Our ability to improve food security depends on there being sufficient production capacity, targeted research and development, and a clear understanding of the many expectations placed on land use throughout the UK.

"We fully support the need for a UK Food Security Committee that can build on the findings of the UK food security report and is able to consider the unique requirements of devolved nations. Scottish Ministers can then use this to inform their comprehensive food strategy. Supply chains are closely integrated throughout the UK for food, fuel, timber, and agri-products and it is therefore sensible that we consider a UK wide assessment of food security. 

"A UK land use strategy has the potential to join up the delivery of funding streams throughout the UK to achieve multiple objectives, and increase productivity alongside climate mitigation. It should also ensure that devolved governments receive the appropriate budget for their domestic policy in response to the wider strategy and UK international obligations. There are many lessons which can be learnt from the established Scottish Land Use Strategy and regional land use frameworks."

Recommendations for enhancing UK food security

The UK would benefit from the oversight provided by a statutory body established by government to operate independently beyond short-term parliamentary cycles. This report therefore calls for the establishment of an independent UK Food Security Committee.

Such a body could advise the UK and devolved governments on national and strategic food security by taking account of the wide-ranging issues which determine agricultural productivity. It is this productivity which fundamentally underpins the nation’s food security.

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Summary of actions

The key findings of this independent report culminate in the following recommendations to bolster the UK’s food security by enhancing agricultural productivity.

Land Use Strategy

Streamline government policies to create cross-departmental, comprehensive legislation that balances all facets of land management to ensure sustainable and secure food production.

Implement a government funding policy that maintains and improves sustainable food production within the UK while promoting dietary diversity.

Market Access

Expand both internal and external markets to enhance agri-food business resilience and food production security.

Technology, Data and Infrastructure

Encourage and legislate investment in technology, data solutions, and infrastructure to support sustainable business practices across the food supply system.

Research and Development

Promote interdisciplinary research to enhance the resilience, efficiency, and sustainability of production. Foster agricultural systems research that consolidates on-farm practices into transferable knowledge.

Training, Skills, and Advice

Develop training and education programs to equip the workforce with the skills needed for sustainable agricultural practices, including support for the proposed doctoral training centre for agricultural systems research.

Sustainability and Social Development

Support the development and adoption of sustainable practices in UK agriculture, encompassing social aspects.


Notes for editors

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) is the UK’s leading trade association, representing agricultural supply chain sectors including arable marketing, crop protection, agronomy, feed, fertiliser, and seed. 

Formed in 2003, AIC has over 230 Members in the agri-supply trade which are responsible for £17.8 billion of annual farm trade.

AIC is marking 20 years as the leading voice of the UK agri-supply industry, working in support of modern, sustainable, commercial agriculture. Visit the website to find out more.

Political lobbying and policy influencing is a major part of its work, as well as supporting Members with technical information.  

AIC Services, which is the professional services arm of the AIC, manages a range of services, including Assurance Schemes recognised by UK government as essential tools to underpin feed and food safety alongside fertiliser security. These include:  

Visit the AIC website to find out more.

Press contact 

Oli Hill, Communications Manager, AIC 
+44 (0)1733 385230
[email protected]