Report from Scotland’s food security taskforce published.
The findings of a taskforce set up to respond to any potential disruption to food security and supply, resulting from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, have been published.
The Food Security and Supply Taskforce, set up jointly with the food and drink industry, found that - while there is greater strain on the food supply chain than has been seen for many years - immediate supplies of food and animal feed in Scotland are secure.
It makes a number of recommendations, including the establishment of a new Food Security unit within the Scottish Government.
Speaking ahead of the opening of Scotland’s flagship agricultural show, the Royal Highland Show, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said food security was being given greater domestic priority as a result of climate change and an increasing understanding of the global nature of food supply.
Ms Gougeon added:
“The war in Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the global food system and the impacts are being felt by producers and consumers in Scotland.
“This has compounded the challenging operating environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the hard Brexit imposed on Scotland by the UK Government, which has inflicted significant and lasting damage on our world class food and drink industries, rural and coastal communities.
“We have already taken steps to respond to the situation, including improving business cash flow via our payments strategy for 2022, to ensure farmers and crofters are paid as early as possible.
“The rapid establishment of our Taskforce - which is the first within the UK - and the creation of new food security structures should offer assurances that government and industry will be in a position to react as quickly as possible to any future shocks.
“I would like to thank all those involved in the Taskforce for their support. It is in this collaborative spirit that we must now move forward.”
Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink James Withers said:
“This report marks a turning point in how we respond to growing food security pressures in this country. New structures, embedded into Government, working in close collaboration with industry will make food security central to our thinking in future. The new Food Security Unit will be a mechanism to monitor risks, identify ways to increase resilience in food production and supply, and respond rapidly to emerging issues.
“The rapid response by Scottish Government in establishing this taskforce has been important. I sincerely hope we see the same focus emerge at UK level. Whilst immediate food and feed supplies are secure, for many businesses in the food and drink supply chain, the financial and operational pressure is as challenging as it has ever been. If the situation deteriorates further, we may need to consider other interventions.
“Food security is going to be a dominant global theme over the next decade. The horrors unfolding in Ukraine has brought it into stark focus, but the climate emergency means it is an issue here to stay. The outcome of this short life work will ensure, as a nation, we can strengthen food security and our own supply chains whilst also looking at how we can support those beyond our shores.”
The short-life Food Security and Supply Taskforce was established on 17 March 2022 with the purpose of recommending short, medium and longer-term actions that might be taken to mitigate impacts, resolve supply issues and strengthen food security and supply in Scotland.
It was co-chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands and the Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink James Withers with key food and drink industry leaders, agencies and related organisations represented.
The Taskforces recommendations include:
- The creation of a dedicated Food Security Unit within the Scottish Government.
- Supporting improved cash flow for individual businesses and farmers.
- A digital gateway, specifically for the food and drink sector, highlighting support available to businesses.
- The Scottish Government and Food Standards Scotland will seek to open engagement with the Groceries Adjudicator and the Competition and Markets Authority to ask them what scope they have to seek assurance and assess whether current behaviours in the food supply chain are working in the long-term interests of consumer choice, food security and retailers.
- To encourage the UK Government to look at how the "fair dealing" powers in their Agriculture Act 2020 might be used more broadly to ensure fair treatment of agricultural producers.
- Given the ongoing global turbulence, consideration will be given to the Taskforce meeting perhaps two more times this year, in a monitoring capacity.
- Scottish Government will also seek to engage with the UK Government, the EU and other international food security structures, including European Food Security Preparedness.
- Urging the UK Government to support the sector which includes addressing critical infrastructure issues, combatting acute post-Brexit skills shortages and addressing calls for further action on the soaring price of fuel and energy.
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