Future national food security structures
Taskforce members agreed that the early establishment and mobilisation of the Short-life Food Security and Supply Taskforce had demonstrated a rapid response by the Scottish Government and industry to concerns over supply chain issues in the immediate wake of the Ukraine situation. It recognised too that Food Standards Scotland had also demonstrated a quick response, for example, to make the changes needed to labelling, to reflect the use of substitutes to sunflower oil in some products.
While immediate supplies of food and animal feed are secure, even if prices are rising sharply, it is also clear that food security will become a growing global theme over the next decade. Ukraine represents the current food security threat, but in the context of global population growth and a climate emergency, strengthening overall food security and supply chain resilience should become a priority for nations.
The Taskforce considered carefully, under this theme, that there was a need for an ongoing monitoring of risk or threats to the supply chain to help mitigate future shocks and impacts and to ensure food security. While it is not possible to predict all impacts, enhanced monitoring could, in turn, enable the development of greater long-term insight into global supply chain performance, concerns and availability to improve responsiveness to potential crises. Given the volatility of the situation in Ukraine and the recognition that food supply issues can deteriorate quickly, such monitoring can allow for a rapid response, and inform any potential industry or Scottish Government intervention, to ensure food supply chains continue to function.
The Taskforce also considered that there was scope to enhance alignment with key partner businesses and countries, where possible.
The recommendations of the Taskforce, under this theme, were both short and longer-term, and were:
- The creation of a dedicated Food Security Unit within the Scottish Government.
- This would have a critical task in overseeing the recommendations of the taskforce. It would manage ongoing monitoring of supply chain vulnerabilities, including infrastructure, (e.g. a dedicated food security function), and linking with future food security work, as a legacy of the Taskforce. This function could be managed within Government and would mean that Government and industry would be on the front foot and able to react as quickly as possible to any future shocks, as these arise.
- Scottish Government will also seek to engage with the UK Government, the EU and other international food security structures, including European Food Security Crisis Preparedness and Response Mechanism (EFSCM).
Under this theme, the Taskforce also considered how legislation and policy affecting food production and practice is assessed. It noted that safeguards for agricultural production already exist in planning law and through assessments of the impact on agricultural production of new forestry planting. Legislation and policy development is subject to existing impact assessments including the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment which specifically looks at the impact on businesses, including those involved in food production. There is also a real balance needed to be struck and the Scottish Government has previously signalled its commitment to support farmers and crofters to produce more of our food, more sustainably, while continuing to acknowledge the need for change and to make sure that agriculture continues to play its part in cutting emissions, mitigating climate change and restoring and enhancing nature and biodiversity.
The Taskforce also recognised that this issue is arguably broader than its Terms of Reference, but that future food security work in Scotland would become a key mechanism to inform future policy making decisions on agri-food, including land use.
The recommendation of the Taskforce, on this point, was longer-term in focus:
- While more consideration could be given to how policy and legislation, affecting food production and practice are assessed, this should be explored in the context of future food security work.
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