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National Resilience Strategy: Food Security

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 9 June 2022

3. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help ensure food security preparedness as part of his Department’s national resilience strategy. (900326)

The Government are working closely with the food industry to ensure that the UK’s food security is resilient to shocks. The resilience strategy will be published this summer and will reflect a range of global resilience issues.

This situation has become increasingly urgent because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has seriously disrupted global food supplies. Will the Minister comment on rumours that the Government are reportedly abandoning many of the recommendations in the national food strategy, on which their response is long overdue, including measures that would help us to improve our food security?

We are working in partnership with the food industry—indeed, only yesterday I chaired a roundtable with industry representatives—and also working in partnership across the United Kingdom. We had representatives from the devolved Administrations there yesterday for what is a common purpose. We all want to see resilience, given the pressure on food prices, and we are working in partnership with industry representatives to take that strategy forward.

Will my right hon. Friend outline what steps his Department is taking to mitigate the effects of the war in Ukraine on world supplies of food?

One specific area is working with international partners as to how we get the grain out of Ukraine. There is a pressing timescale on that—a four-week window—so the matter is urgent. Indeed, when I met the US ambassador who has newly arrived in her post, that was one of the issues we discussed, as we do with other international partners.

Bearing in mind the need to secure knowledgeable farmers—I am very fortunate in my constituency to have many—what discussions has the Minister had with counterparts in the area of skills and learning on fostering a supportive route to farming and diversification to secure our food supplies at home?

The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point. I suggest that he looks first at the approach we took in the autumn, when our supply chains were under pressure. We showed considerable flexibility and worked with industry leaders such as Sir Dave Lewis on how to adapt our approach. Obviously, there are schemes such as the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which has a review mechanism that potentially allows an extra 10,000 workers if required. There is also the opportunity to invest in areas such as agri-tech, and policy from the Chancellor such as the super deduction facilitates that investment.