The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has welcomed the launch of the Government’s Food Strategy (13 Jun) but says significant investment is required to see it succeed.
The strategy sets out a blueprint for creating a more thriving, affordable and sustainable agri-food sector. It highlights ways it can support farmers by helping increase domestic production, spread jobs and grow the economy.
Food security (having enough food to meet individual needs) has majored heavily within the report following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. This has had knock-on impacts on food supplies and price spikes.
The report also includes plans to strengthen the resilience of the supply chains and boost domestic production to help the UK become more self-sufficient (producing the food you need without relying on others) to protect against future economic shocks and crises.
While the strategy is wide-ranging and ambitious, RABDF’s Chairman Di Wastenage says it will require significant investment beyond the funding already announced.
She said: “Whilst it may seem like a lot of money is being invested into the agri-food sectors, my worry is a lot of this money is old money, and in reality, it needs a lot of newer investment to pull it off.
“That said, this report rightly highlights the importance of food security and the value placed on British farmers. For far too long, food and our farmers have been undervalued. Now it’s time consumers understand the true value of the food they consume.
“Farmers produce healthy, nutritious food with low food miles without impacting the environment. Dairy and meat proteins are very much part of a healthy and balanced diet providing essential vitamins and minerals needed for good health and development,” she added.
Mrs Wastenage continued: “It feels like the tide is turning regarding farming and its impact on the environment. This report shows that farmers can produce food in an environmentally sensitive way by adopting the principles of regenerative agriculture.
“It’s why, as an Association, we have developed a unique event focussing solely on regenerative farming techniques, called Down to Earth, which takes place this week (15 June). The event is for all livestock farmers, no matter where they are on their regenerative farming journey, to get to grips with its principles and understand how it can benefit them, their system, the environment and livestock.”
Regarding the labour situation in the dairy sector, Mrs Wastenage added: “We are grateful the labour situation is still on the government’s radar. This is a real issue for dairy farmers right now. While we are keen to engage with the government and the wider industry to find ways to recruit domestic labour more successfully, in the short term, we also need to access highly skilled permanent labour from overseas.
“To provide further solutions to the labour crisis, the RABDF fully supports the launch of the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH). This will help increase professional training and develop clear career pathways, equipping people and businesses with the skills needed to run sustainable and profitable businesses,” she said.
The report also sets out how it aims to increase exports of products such as dairy and lamb. Mrs Wastenage added: “We welcome any support that adds value to our products and the investment in 10 agri-food attachés across the world to support UK food and drink exporters to break into and flourish in key growth markets is a massive step forward. But to meet the government’s ambition, this likely needs to be increased and at a pace,” she said.