“We cannot find anything substantive and implementable in the White Paper that will beneficially affect UK food security, the resilience of food supply chains, any particular sector within the food system or access to healthy nutritious food.”
These words opened section 4 of our response to the EFRA Commons Select Committee Call for Evidence on food security. (1)
We could and did comment on the resilience of food supply chains (in sections 4.1 and 4.2), and on access to healthy nutritious food (in section 4.3).
Section 4.1: The resilience of supply chains:
subsection 4.1.1. was about how to build robustness into the system. Commercial enterprises favour just-in-time (JIT) efficiency over holding stocks, only building robustness into their plans if short-term shortages are deemed highly probable, risking delayed market sales being higher than storage costs. Thus, as we pointed out, only the Government has the authority and powers to lever the changes necessary.
Section 4.1.2 was about the Government’s responsibilities. We quoted a Government statement in their 2021 Food Security Report to Parliament that indicated they were seeking to abnegate their responsibilities under the 1996 Rome Declaration on Food Security which, as we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions — including in previous responses to this Select Committee, the UK Government is a signatory.
The quotation reads thus:
The capability, levers, and expertise to respond to disruption lie with the agri-food industry, which is experienced in dealing with scenarios that can affect food supply disruption.
Government’s role is to support and enable an industry-led response.This includes extensive and ongoing engagement to support industry in preparedness for, and response to, potential food supply chain disruptions.
Section 4.1.3 was about the role of the commercial sector. We further pointed out that the commercial sector has neither the capacity nor the capability, let alone the authority to make the food supply system more resilient or to ensure food security for the population.
Section 4.2: A resilient food supply system has to respond routinely to crises:
Six subsections had these titles:
4.2.1 Crisis management is not a strategic option (2)
4.2.2 Gaps in UK capacity and capability
4.2.3 Robustness: Contingency stocks
4.2.4 A more robust, resilient food supply chain will beneficially change the food system
4.2.5 Mid and long-term returns on investment (ROI)
4.2.6 Effective emergency planning depends on built-in resilience in the supply system
Section 4.3: Access to healthy, nutritious food
Three subsections had these titles:
4.3.1 Affordability: The downside of the commercial food supply system
4.3.2 Action against healthy products
4.3.3 Action against companies who make unhealthy products (3)
(1) The Select Committee opened its Inquiry on 25th July, a few weeks after the Government White Paper was published, to widespread derision; e.g. see this blogpost: Will this Government White Paper on food strategy sink without a trace?
(2) We quoted Baroness Brown as in this blogpost: “What we’ve dealt with as a crisis, needs to be routine.”
(3) Summarised in our article in the Journal of Public Health: VAT: A precise means to identify drug-food companies, also linked in our resource to the Select Committee.