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Boost British food security, demand Tories and Labour in rare agreement

Britain must treat supplying food to our population as a “fundamental part of national security”, the Tories and Labour have told the Daily Express.



In a rare cross-party agreement, the Environment Secretary Steve Barclay and his opposition counterpart called for food security to be given the highest priority following the impact of the pandemic and war in Ukraine.


Speaking from the campaign trail in East Sussex, Mr Barclay said: “Food security is much more about national security than perhaps we realised in the past.


“What’s very clear to me is when there is pressure on our supply chain, the cost goes up significantly. And there is nothing more essential to our national security than ensuring that we can maintain our food supply.


“The focus on food production is about food security, because that is also a fundamental part of our national security.”


Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Jim Reed echoed Mr Barclay’s comments, saying: “Food security is national security. If anyone didn’t know that before the pandemic and the war in Ukraine emptied our supermarket shelves, they do now.”


Their plea comes as Labour figures revealed the agricultural workforce has plummeted by a fifth since 2017. Analysis showed the number of people employed by agriculture, forestry and fishing firms has fallen from 375,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 307,000 in 2023.


It comes as 6,300 agricultural-related businesses in the UK have closed over the same period.

Mr Reed said: “Red tape at the borders and eye-watering energy bills have forced thousands of farmers out of business, losing thousands of agricultural jobs. We will cut energy bills for farmers, slash red tape at our borders to get food exports moving again, and use the Government’s own purchasing power to back British produce.”


National Farmers Union President Minette Batters said: “Farmers and growers continue to face huge pressures from unfair supply chains, changing agricultural policy and volatile weather. It’s good to hear politicians recognising the importance of a sustainable and resilient homegrown food sector, but they need to put words into action.


“Farmers and the public need to know that there are considered and progressive policies coming from all political parties that will help boost the production of high-quality, environmentally friendly and affordable British food.”


Farmers face increased pressure over food security, highlighted by this paper, as a result of dire wet weather impacting their yields. They also face concerns over the phasing out of the Basic Payment Scheme, a Government plan providing financial support to the farming industry.


Mr Barclay said: “I absolutely hear farmers and recognise that the current weather has been incredibly challenging and made it very difficult to get crops in the ground. That is why we got an announcement on flood support out so quickly, much quicker than would normally be the case.”


He pointed to rules being relaxed on the Farming Recovery Fund, set up after Storm Eunice in February. Eligibility for flood-hit farmers was previously limited to land within 150 metres of a river but that has been reversed.


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