25 July 2016

Those of us awaiting the government’s long-promised 25 year plan for the British food and farming industry will have to continue to be patient: prior to the EU referendum the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was anticipating a publication date of sometime after June 2016. When (and if) it will now see the light of day is anyone's guess.

The 25 year plan was a key manifesto commitment for the present government, who promised a paper setting out its plans to back growth in British food and farming in order to deliver economic security and sustainable growth.

The promise made was to develop a plan to ‘grow more, buy more and sell more British food’.

The current challenges facing the sector might lead many to view this as a tough promise for the government to fulfil. DEFRA, however, has been keen to emphasise that this is a long term plan for growth, not a quick fix, and that improved economic resilience in the sector, plus increased resilience to the effects of climate change, pests and disease, are key to achieving this vision.

Despite the delay in publication, and prior to the Brexit vote, DEFRA gave us a steer on the broad areas to be covered in the report. We were told that the report would be focused around four themes:

  • Growing the market by building on the strength of the Great British food brand.
  • Increasing competitiveness through innovation and the development of skills in the sector (with an emphasis on apprenticeships).
  • Developing resilience by focusing on resource efficiency, including the sustainability of fish stocks, soil, water quality, enhancing the environment, managing natural and economic risks and encouraging collaborative business and supply chain models so that risk is spread more evenly through the food supply chain.
  • Maintaining consumer confidence in the integrity, authenticity and healthiness of the food we eat (for both British and global consumers).

Before the EU referendum we were told that the next few months were going to be used to refine the details, obtain greater industry and government commitments and to link aspects of the report into the strategy on childhood obesity which is being developed by the Department of Health. In the meantime, of course, the country has voted to leave the EU. The sector is now facing uncertainty over key issues such as farming subsidies, access to the single market, trade tariffs and the availability of migrant workers (currently 65% of agricultural workers and 27% of food manufacturing employees are non-UK EU citizens). It now seems likely that great swathes of the draft report will have to be rewritten. When and if the Government will have time to do this between now and the date of the UK's exit from the EU is questionable.

Key contact

Helen Scott-Lawler

Helen Scott-Lawler Partner

  • Head of Food and Drink
  • Commercial
  • Intellectual Property and Media

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