Earlier this week the UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, Liz Truss, kick started discussions that will begin to work towards a ‘25 year plan for food and farming‘. This is a highly ambitious project and was one of the key food and farming pledges in the Conservative Party’s manifesto. It will bring together food industry leaders, farmers, trade associations, retailers, manufacturers and researchers and will work around seven key themes:
- Strengthening the British brand at home and abroad.
- Increasing exports of British products.
- Breaking down barriers to trade to enable food entrepreneurs to unleash their full potential and access new markets.
- Increasing procurement of British produce including in schools and hospitals.
- Attracting investment into the industry.
- Boosting skills and apprenticeships to ensure that the industry has the confidence and capacity to meet the growing demand for British produce.
- Increasing productivity through innovation, research and development and sharing data
It is fantastic to see some medium term thinking for food and farming on a political level, bringing together a wide range of interest groups. However, I would have liked to have seen other themes such as sustainability, food waste and food quality directly involved (I am sure these will be mentioned along the way but they deserve discussion in their own right – especially if a viable direction for the next 25 years is to be constructed. Similar plans (many plans!) have been drawn up in the conservation sector, for biodiversity and the state of nature and from these we can learn that whatever plan is drawn up it must be workable, achievable, sustainable and supportive of small farmers and food producers as well as the big institutions who will likely be at the heart of the discussions and decision making. The plan must be democratic and applicable to as many situations as possible, whilst not being general – is that too much to ask? I will look forward to seeing this progress.