Memorandum submitted by the Food and Drink Federation (SFS 29)
Food security is a complex issue, involving a chain of production and distribution. Consumers also need enough purchasing power to buy what they need.
security in the
The longer term balance of supply and demand is a global challenge. Climate change introduces whole new areas of uncertainty to a set of existing risks, which already include pressure on energy and water supplies vital to feeding the nation on a day to day basis.
Managing and mitigating these risks will require integrated policies which prioritise food security as an objective in its own right, particularly in the regulatory area. We also need to maintain and enhance knowledge and skills to provide flexibility, innovation and resilience to make the most of what we have, now and in the future.
The UK food and drink industry currently provides a wider range of affordable and wholesome food to more people than at any time in our history. We need to build on these strengths through a clear and shared strategic framework to help Government and industry avoid short term difficulties and the risks of market failure eroding critical mass and undermining the further capabilities we need to develop.
1. The Food and Drink
Federation (FDF) represents the
2. Issues related to
food security are highly relevant to the industry's own interests and to the
role it plays in providing safe, nutritious, varied and affordable products for
consumers, in the
3. The industry is very aware of the potential impact of climate and demographic change, environmental degradation and possible shortages of fossil fuels and water - at both national and global level. That is why it is increasingly engaging with efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and to promote increased efficiency of resource use, for example through the FDF's Fivefold Environmental Ambition, which sets targets for cutting CO2 emissions, reducing water use and transport miles, minimising packaging and sending zero waste to landfill.
4. The FDF is keen to assist the Committee with its inquiry and offers the following responses to the questions posed.
How robust is the
5. Assessing the
robustness of the
6. On these broad
7. Likely risks to
short term supply centre on issues relating to transport, energy and other
forms of civil contingency, rather than on the availability of food as such.
Maintaining fuel supplies is critical for both manufacturing and primary
production. Recent experience suggests that the
8. By way of comparison, it is worth noting that adequate food supplies were largely maintained throughout the Second World War, though there were major adjustments to what was available, where it came from and how it was produced.
9. Public perception of what constitutes an acceptable level of supply is also likely to change in response to the severity of any emergency and who is seen as responsible. Shortages outside obvious national control (such as those resulting from major weather events or disasters) are more likely to be tolerated than those arising from failures in infrastructure or poor commercial or public policy decisions.
10. Common to all such disruptions to supply, however, is the extent to which the identification, assessment and management of risk can mitigate their worst effects. The food and drink industries have a long and good record of cooperating with Government and its agencies in these areas. But modern supply chains keep physical stocks to a minimum to save cost. This increases vulnerability and dependence on logistical systems to ensure needs are met. Small failures can have disproportionate consequences in such circumstances.
11. In the longer term there is now established consensus that we face a different set of risks relating to the basic balance of supply and demand. World population is expected to grow by 50% by 2050 and demand for food to double. Increased prosperity will also accentuate competition for resources as more people enjoy higher protein diets. Renewable energy needs may also impact on water use and food crop production. Policies aimed at developing biofuels need to take proper account of food security concerns.
12. At the same time,
climate change is likely to reduce available agricultural land and increase
harvest volatility. Shortages of energy and water may further reduce output.
Mass migrations may compound other changes in patterns of production and trade.
Even if some of these impacts may be less extreme in the
13. The ability of political, economic and market forces to cope with these challenges remains unknown. Nor is it clear how linear these processes might be, or when tipping points might occur. Risk management will again be vital, as will the extent to which people are prepared to modify their expectations in the light of changing circumstances.
What are its main strengths?
14. The current
15. Another key factor is the industry's ability to buy efficiently from EU and wider world markets to improve the range of products on offer and complement its use of home-grown raw materials. A variety of suppliers is also inherently more robust than reliance on single sources.
16. As already noted,
the industry is heavily reliant on energy and water supplies and also on a
range of other ancillary inputs such as packaging. In general the more
sophisticated the product, the more vulnerable it is to interruptions in
essential inputs. In the short to medium term, energy security and water
security are probably more relevant to
sufficient productive capacity in both domestic agriculture (and fisheries) and
in our own processing industries needs to be given appropriate strategic
priority, as market forces alone will not necessarily guarantee the continuity
required. This needs to extend to regulatory and other decisions affecting the
context in which the food chain operates, in order to ensure that there is an
appropriate balance between long term resilience and more immediate policy
requirements. National standards in areas like animal welfare or food safety
which go beyond those applied elsewhere may also adversely affect the relative
How well placed is the UK to make the most of its opportunities in responding to the challenge of increasing global food production by 50% by 2030 and doubling it by 2050, while ensuring that such production is sustainable?
19. The industry also
adds value to a range of imported supplies using the skills it has developed,
in areas like preserving nutritional value, improving shelf-life and minimising
What are the
significant reductions in use to help reduce stress on the
The marine environment
22. Properly managed
fisheries have the potential to provide enormous benefit to the nation's food
supply, particularly in nutritional terms. Marine fisheries require no inputs
other than the energy involved in capture. And responsibly fished stocks are
effectively a renewable resource. The
23. But, as in the case of agricultural land, there are increasing issues of spatial planning in relation to the maritime environment, in relation to a range of competing uses, other than food production. The oceans also have a key, but relatively poorly understood, role in relation to climate change and the carbon cycle. Research into these issues is even more subject to market failure than in the case of land-based equivalents, because questions of ownership are much less well defined. The integration of policies relating to the marine environment - and the funding of adequate research to support them - is therefore primarily a task for government, at national and international level. The history of cooperation and success in these areas is not good and achieving the required step change in performance is itself a major challenge.
The science base
24. The need for
relevant expertise appropriate to
The provision of training
25. Training is
another aspect of the knowledge and skills base which it is essential for the
the potential for an increased role for domestic supply in response to longer
term threats to food security, imports of food (as raw materials,
semi-processed and finished products) have made a major contribution to UK food
supplies since the industrial revolution. Diversity of sources is also another
key feature of resilience in the supply chain. It is therefore a high priority
The way in which land is farmed and managed
27. Beyond the points above relating to soil, water and the need for a longer term strategy for land use, the FDF has no particular comments on the way land in the UK is farmed and managed, other than that consumers need to be able to have confidence in the quality and traceability of products and that necessary regulatory requirements have been met.
What trends are
likely to emerge on the demand side of the food system in the
28. There seems to be a disjunction between attempting to analyse emerging trends in consumer tastes and habits and assessing the prospects for securing food supplies in an increasingly uncertain future. Although there is growing public awareness of climate change and its possible consequences, there is little evidence to date of this having any material effect on patterns of current consumption. As noted earlier, the range and diversity of food and drink products available in the UK is probably greater than ever before and there are no signs that consumers wish this to be restricted in future. There is evidence of a more direct link between disposable income and choice, suggesting that consumption responds more readily to price signals than to any wider concerns about the impact of production on the environment or the sustainability of food supplies in general.
29. There is also a growing debate about diet and health. This will also affect consumer choices and the way manufacturers formulate products. But it is difficult to predict the effect on aggregate demand. More use of fresh produce and localised sourcing may affect some processing sectors. But it is similarly difficult to assess the implications of this, including for food safety in respect of storage and production standards.
30. Consumers are also increasingly interested in how their food is produced and the quality, technical and ethical standards involved (e.g. in relation to both animal welfare and human labour). There is also caution over the need for and safety of new developments e.g. in relation to additives, nanotechnology and GM. Responding to these concerns requires a careful balance on the part of industry and its regulators. Meeting higher demand from fewer resources in future will inevitably require smarter solutions and technology has an enormous contribution to make to this.
The role and
31. As recognised in
the Government's "Food Matters" report, a successful food strategy must include
affordable access to necessary supplies, fair terms of trade and competition, a
proportionate regulatory framework and coherence with wider policies on health
and the environment. The challenges of food security extend further into issues
of energy and water supply and the impact of climate change on global supply
and demand. This agenda - and associated evidence and research needs to be
integrated into a coherent cross-government policy framework. FDF notes that
32. Apart from
What criteria can
be used to monitor how well the
33. A key element of
this has to be the efficiency of resource use, in terms of energy, water,
carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. The way food production impacts on
the environment and the way it is affected by climate change are other
important factors. Absolute levels of output or changes in self-sufficiency
ratios are not good indicators of success, as they ignore the externalities
which are such an important component of sustainability. The cost of production
is also relevant as the