It’s hard to know where to begin when commenting on the government’s long-awaited but half-baked National Food Strategy for England.
Published last month, the strategy has disappointed almost everyone hoping for much more than it delivered: a series of lukewarm ideas and aspirations seasoned throughout with a lack of detail.
Along with fresh air, clean water and adequate shelter, a secure food supply is an essential requirement for everyone on the planet. But the government’s strategy for England is singularly unambitious.
Rather than ramping up farm output, the document outlines plans to broadly maintain current levels of domestic food production. And it is far from the visionary document many believe is needed to address the challenges we face as a nation.
The NFU has put on a brave face. It says the strategy is a clear milestone which recognises the importance of maintaining our productive capacity – particularly at a time when war in Ukraine has focused attention on the fragility of food security.
But there is no doubt that the government could have gone much further. The strategy accepts the need for major reform of the food system. Yet ministers continue to sign trade deals involving food imports in seemingly limitless amounts.
Ensuring fairness within the supply chain is also important. The government has spoken of its intention to examine how supply chain provisions already set out in legislation can be used to better effect – but again, there is little detail.
A proper strategy would champion British farmers – recognising the vital role of UK agriculture in feeding the nation as well as protecting and enhancing the environment while working to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Instead, like many other government promises at the moment, the document appears full of talk – paying lip service to the importance of good production without detailing a coherent plan which will help realise its goals.