The findings of a taskforce set up to respond to any potential disruption to food security and supply, resulting from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have been published today (Thursday, June 23).
The Food Security and Supply Taskforce found that while there is greater strain on the food supply chain than there has been seen for many years, immediate supplies of food and animal feed in Scotland are secure.
With that said, it made a number of recommendations, some of them being:
- The creation of a dedicated Food Security Unit within the Scottish Government;
- Supporting improved cashflow for individual businesses and farmers;
- That the Scottish Government should write further to the UK Government to press it again to consider a range of critical issues to support the sector, which may include asking it to address critical infrastructure issues like carbon dioxide (CO2) and fertiliser;
- To also 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;
- The creation of a digital gateway, specifically for the food and drink sector, highlighting support available to businesses.
The taskforce, which is co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands and the chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink James Withers, also believes it should meet "perhaps two more times this year" to further discuss - if necessary - issues that arise, and to monitor the delivery of agreed recommendations.
The proposed future meeting of the taskforce would also provide a mechanism to monitor the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Ukraine's food security, and that of other countries in the middle East and North Africa that are reliant on Ukraine.
“This report marks a turning point in how we respond to growing food-security pressures in this country," said co-chair James Withers.
"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.”
Scott Walker, National Farmers' Union (NFU) chief executive and member of the taskforce, commented on the report:
“The strategy has potential to deliver in the long-term. It includes the creation of a dedicated food security unit within Scottish Government and greater engagement with the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA), the independent regulator charged with ensuring supermarkets treat their suppliers fairly.
"That is positive news for the industry.
“We will look for the recommendations to progress at speed given the current crisis. We have seen several reports in the past simply gather dust. This set of recommendations from the taskforce must put into action and delivered in full by Scottish Government.”