Unsustainable supply chains can't continue, NFU warns government

NFU President Minette Batters sat at her desk

Supply chain reviews need to deliver on fairness for farmers, NFU President tells new Defra Secretary, six months on from No. 10’s ‘Farm to Fork Summit’ on food security.

The NFU has called for government to deliver on its promises to back British farming by ensuring fairness in food supply chains.

The Farm to Fork Summit was the result of months of campaigning on the part of the NFU, following a series of pledges made by the Prime Minister during the NFU’s Summer Hustings event.

Key among the announcements made at the summit were commitments to hold reviews into the horticulture and egg supply chains. The latter of these was launched at the end of October.

Read: Why it’s important to have your say on the government’s egg supply chain review.

Supply chain risks and costs are ‘unsustainable’

NFU President Minette Batters said “food security should always remain a top priority for any government” and referenced a “perfect storm of challenges” currently facing farmers including, “crippling input costs, volatile supply chains and extreme weather events”, set against a backdrop of changes to farm support and agricultural policy.

Minette met with the newly appointed Defra Secretary of State Steve Barclay the day after the Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle. Following the meeting she said: “I pressed the need for urgent action on the vitally important sector reviews taking place.

“They must have a tangible impact on the relationship with farmers and the supply chain. Currently farmers and growers bear the brunt of the risks and cost within the food supply chain and this is unsustainable for all involved.

“This reality is playing out in real time with a fractured sugar supply chain – an acute example of the burden put on primary producers.”

At the beginning of the month, British Sugar sent out a document to all growers which asserted to contain details of the 2024/25 Sugar Beet Contract Offer.

Currently farmers and growers bear the brunt of the risks and cost within the food supply chain and this is unsustainable for all involved.

NFU President Minette Batters

The NFU Sugar Board believes that this aggressive action – in circumventing NFU Sugar – was undertaken in the hope that individual growers will accept a contract that gives them significantly less value than they should receive given anticipated market conditions.

Read: Sugar beet negotiation: NFU Sugar responds

Positive progress made

“It has been six months since I sat down at the Farm to Fork summit with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and I appreciate the positive steps that have been made,” Minette added.

“We called for a national food security summit and a government commitment to work towards 60% self-sufficiency, both of which have happened, as well as the new agri-food attachés to help sell more British food abroad.

“But I have urged the new Secretary of State to ensure Defra’s supply chain reviews within the dairy, horticulture and poultry sectors deliver much-needed improvements to the operation, fairness and transparency for all farmers and growers, so we can continue what we do best – provide high-quality, climate-friendly food for the nation.”

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