Rt Hon George Eustice MP
Secretary of State for Environment
Food & Rural Affairs
2 Marsham Street
4 April 2022
I wrote to your colleague Victoria Prentis on 11 March following a constructive meeting between UK Government and the Devolved Administrations to discuss the implications of the Ukraine crisis.
At that meeting Minister Prentis gave a commitment to continue regular discussions between UK Government and the Devolved Administrations and we proposed a weekly meeting. I am therefore disappointed that since then, and even after a subsequent letter on 18 March reminding her of this commitment, other than at the Inter-Ministerial Group meeting on 21 March, we have had no opportunity for discussions with UK Government on the impacts of this crisis, and which are acutely affecting the food supply chain.
It is clear that the sharp rise in fuel price is contributing to the hardship being felt by our own food production sector. We have reports of these costs making it unviable for some fishing vessels to leave port, pig production costs becoming untenable, the food processing and storage sectors being hit hard with the general rise in primary product cost and the removal of tax relief for red diesel causing price increases beyond the levels of the limited fuel rebate.
I am concerned that this lack of engagement will only lead again to suffering by Scottish businesses who were left fighting for support to continue to deliver exports following the Brexit deal. That previous dismissal of the industry’s concerns and weeks of pain, stress, anger and financial detriment caused by Brexit border disruptions and barriers to trade as “teething problems” was unresolved until the Scottish Government stepped in to pick up the pieces and support the industry.
At this time of global uncertainty when we must have food security, I have set up together with Scottish industry, a Food Security and Supply Taskforce to monitor, identify and respond to any potential disruption to the food and drink supply chain resulting from the impact of the war in Ukraine. It will seek to recommend any short, medium and longer-term actions that can be taken to mitigate impacts, resolve supply issues and strengthen food security and supply in Scotland.
This Taskforce met for the second time last week, and we noted that the significant increase in fuel cost is clearly jeopardising the ability of our food producers to provide resilience in supply. We would be happy to share our findings with you and the other Devolved Administrations. I would like to propose an urgent four-nation summit to discuss the significant impact of this, and possible options for support. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
I am copying this letter to Edwin Poots, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in the Northern Ireland Executive and Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd in the Welsh Government.
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