Written evidence submitted by Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) (FS0080)

 

HCC response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

 

Food Security

 

30 September 2022

 

 

Thank you for the opportunity to input into the Committee’s inquiry into what steps the Government can take to support food security.

 

Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is the industry-led organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh red meat. HCC's stakeholder representatives implement, on behalf of all Welsh farmers and other key industry participants, a strategic plan to develop profitable and sustainable markets for Welsh red meat to derive benefit for all in the supply chain.

 

1. What are the key factors affecting the resilience of food supply chains and causing disruption and rising food prices – including input costs, labour shortages and global events? What are the consequences for UK businesses and consumers?

 

The climate crisis is urgent and global in scale, and presents the biggest risk to food security in the medium to long term. Humanity is facing the challenge of producing enough high-quality food and distributing it equitably amongst a growing population. Short-term solutions should be avoided that further degrade the atmosphere and soil of our planet and jeopardise the food security of future generations.

 

Given the dominance of grass production in Wales, there is a strong argument to retain productive livestock to meet the demands of the domestic UK population. Increasing imports of red meat to meet UK consumer demand could undermine the UK’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases globally. This approach would result in an invisible carbon footprint from the emissions produced overseas to produce sheepmeat and beef for consumption in the UK.

 

The sector has also been faced with uncertainty and challenges following Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, along with new trade deals and changes in agricultural support payments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The red meat sector now faces new challenges with rising inflation (increased energy, fuel and food costs all contribute to UK prices rising at their fastest rate for 30 years) and the conflict in Ukraine putting pressure on global trade flows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. What is the outlook for UK food price inflation in the short and medium term? What policy interventions should the Government consider to manage these pressures?

 

The rate at which food and drink prices are increasing continues to accelerate. Now standing at 12.4 percent for August 2022,[2] it is expected to peak at 13.1% in Q4 of 2022.[3] Forecasters predict that food price inflation will remain at high levels into 2023, influenced by several factors including the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, pre-existing supply chain challenges and impacts still being felt from Brexit.

 

The recent events within the financial market, which saw the pound fall to an all-time low against the dollar are also a challenge for the industry. Whilst a weak pound supports export sales, it makes purchases of input commodities much more expensive, further exasperating the pressures upon producers in the UK and potentially affecting global competition.

 

The Welsh (and UK) red meat industry relies on long global supply chains, with associated time logistics, and consequently during times of uncertainly there are issues of food security. The industry must adopt new ways of working, consider ways to shorten and simplify supply chains where possible and seek to respond to evolving consumer demands. An opportunity exists in the design of policy to tackle these challenges and increase the importance of food security and UK self-sufficiency. We need to build upon the essential role of agriculture in food production, the rural community and in wider cultural and well-being provisions whilst protecting our natural resources.

 

A framework is required to enable a coherent, consistent and strategic cross-governmental approach to policy and practice on all aspects of the food system. Ongoing support and interventions are needed to further build upon business resilience throughout the Welsh red meat supply chain.

 

3. How are the rising cost of living and increasing food prices affecting access to healthy and nutritious food?

 

Shoppers are making lifestyle changes to deal with the extra demands on their household budgets. Shoppers are looking to trade down into cheaper products and for red meat this results in a mix of buying cheaper cuts within the category, as well as buying cheaper proteins altogether.

 

In what is a fiercely competitive sector, supermarkets are now reacting to make sure they respond to the challenges consumers are facing, and to offer best value there has been an expansion of their own-label ranges. Shoppers are now shopping around more between the retailers to find the best value products. Sales of own-label value products increasing by 20 percent in August 2022.[4]

 

The recent fluctuations in the financial markets and rising interest rates will also be a challenge, and are likely to impact on consumer choices which has the potential to reduce red meat consumption. This presents possible long-term societal impacts which need careful consideration. Maintaining a healthy population requires a balanced diet. Red meat is included in the Eatwell Guide and has a very important role to play in the diets of people of all ages.

 

Lamb and beef sales have declined since last year, with lamb volumes down by 22 percent and beef volumes down by 12 percent.[5]

 

 

 

4. How will the proposals in the Government’s food strategy policy paper affect:

 

Whilst food policy in the UK is devolved, and the scope of the Food Strategy is England only; there is a need to ensure that the proposals do not create market distortion within the internal market. Resilience of food chains and access to healthy nutritious food must be considered on a UK basis and it is therefore essential that a dialogue exists between UK Governments to ensure that affordable food is provided for all.

 

5. Is the current level and target of food self-sufficiency in England still appropriate?

 

Whilst this question relates to England, self-sufficiency must be considered on a UK basis and we would encourage dialogue between UK Governments.

 

6. How could the Government’s proposed land use strategy for England improve food security? What balance should be stuck between land use for food production and other goals – such as environmental benefit?

 

Whilst this question relates to England, food security is a global issue, and from a UK perspective it is essential that a dialogue exists between UK Governments to ensure a balance is achieved between food production and environmental protection.


[1] HCC calculations using HMRC data. 2021

[2] Kantar. 12 weeks to 04-Sep-22.

[3] Bank of England: Monetary Policy Committee. Monetary Policy Report. Aug-22.

[4] Kantar. Grocery price inflation hits new peak as Brits navigate £533 annual increase. 16-Aug-22.

[5] Kantar. 12 weeks ending 07-Aug-22.