08 Jul 2024
by Oli Hill

Boosting food security made "core priority" by Defra Secretary as UK agriculture productivity falls

© Shutterstock/GOV.UK

Boosting the UK's food security has been named a "core priority" by Steve Reed MP, the new Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It comes as UK agriculture's total productivity fell 5.1% between 2022 and 2023, according to the latest Defra statistics published today (8 July).

The Defra Secretary said: "Confidence amongst farmers is the lowest on record. It will take years to reverse the damage that's been done, but the work of change has now begun.

"I've asked the department to get to work on my five core priorities: Cleaning up Britain's rivers, lakes and seas; Creating a road map to move Britain to a zero waste economy; Supporting our farmers to boost Britain's food security; Ensuring nature's recovery; Protecting communities from the dangers of flooding."

Food Security Committee recommendation

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) has led calls for the Government to establish an independent, statutory Food Security Committee - a recommendation of the "Powering Productivity for Sustainable UK Food Security" report commissioned by the agri-supply trade association last year.

The report found that "the UK would benefit from the oversight provided by a statutory body established by government to operate independently beyond short-term parliamentary cycles.

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

AIC Powering Productivity report UK Food Security Committee graphic.jpg

Since the independent report's publication in November 2023, many businesses, agri-food bodies, politicians and academics have voiced their support for the report's core recommendation of an independent, statutory UK Food Security Committee to lift the sector's struggling productivity.

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

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The Committee would have representation from key government departments such as the Department for Business and Trade and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as devolved governments in Northern IrelandScotland and Wales, and industry bodies representing the entire UK food supply chain.

"We must get away from food security being seen as a short-term political issue. Instead, we need independent advocates from all parts of the food supply chain to form a statutory UK Food Security Committee to plan for the long term," said Robert Sheasby, AIC's Chief Executive.

"This appears to be in the zeitgeist, and I am delighted to see so many businesses, agri-food bodies, politicians and academics already voicing their support.

It goes to show there is a genuine willingness to work together in the long term. The challenge is therefore laid down to the political parties seeking to form the next UK Government to join the agri-food industry’s ambition to sustainably bolster our national food security."

Click below to learn more about the report and download a PDF copy. Visit the Powering Productivity report webpages to find out more or contact AIC’s Head of Policy & External Affairs Ed Barker ([email protected]).

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Oli Hill

Oli Hill

Communications Manager, AIC

As Communications Manager, Oli creates and oversees the content published on AIC's website, emails, Member briefings, print publications, and social media.

A qualified multimedia journalist, he previously spent six years working at Farmers Weekly magazine as a Senior Reporter on the arable team, and latterly as Community Editor. More recently he was Communications Manager at Red Tractor.

[email protected]
01733 385230

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