UK trade associations have called on the national political parties to focus more on food security in their campaigns for the upcoming general election on 4 July.

A letter was penned to UK party leaders by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), British Retail Consortium (BRC), Food and Drinks Federation (FDF) and UK Hospitality.

In their message, the trade bodies said that while parties have highlighted plans for “defence and energy security” in recent weeks” there has been “very little about food security.

“The lack of focus on food in the political narrative during the campaigns demonstrates a worrying blind-spot for those that would govern us”, they said.

As part of its call for greater focus on food security, the trade groups demanded the parties take note of “six urgent priorities”.

These include decreasing “non-tariff barriers with key trading partners”, and creating an “industrial policy” which features “a tax framework incentivising investment, fosters research and innovation in the UK, takes a joined-up approach to immigration, skills and employment policies that ensure the sector has access to the labour it needs”.

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They also called on parties to collaborate with food and drink businesses to create an achievable net-zero plan, develop new ways to increase investment into “modern buildings and infrastructure”, and build a “long-term partnership with industry to tackle obesity and health inequalities in communities” in the country.

The letter added: “These policies are critical to the future health and prosperity of our nation. We should never take our food security for granted, and whoever forms the next government will need to address these issues as a priority.

“Taken together, these policies can provide the critical ingredient – confidence – that will allow industry to deliver a resilient food system, investing for the future, driving productivity, leading the way in energy efficiency, continuing the journey of protecting and enhancing the environment, and most of all, ensuring that British food remains on our shelves and available for all.”

A manifesto hole?

Labour’s manifesto did not mention the issue of food security specifically, but it did place a focus on skills and immigration.

It has proposed a cut to net migration, while stressing that “The overall level must be properly controlled and managed. Failure to do so reduces the incentives for businesses to train locally”.

It added: “We will reform the points-based immigration system so that it is fair and properly managed, with appropriate restrictions on visas, and by linking immigration and skills policy.

“Labour will not tolerate employers or recruitment agencies abusing the visa system. And we will not stand for breaches of employment law. Employers who flout the rules will be barred from hiring workers from abroad.”

While the party’s stance on immigration may bring fears of a lack of staff in key food sectors, it stressed: “The days of a sector languishing endlessly on immigration shortage lists with no action to train up workers will come to an end.”

Regarding the trade unions calls to tackle obesity, prior to its manifesto release, Labour also committed to a Child Health Action Plan initiative, which included instilling a ban on junk food advertising aimed at children, among other targets.

The Conservatives conversely dedicated a chapter to food security in their manifesto, which includes bringing in “a legally binding target to enhance our food security”, which sill sit alongside the national Food Security Index to help it “determine where best to concentrate farming funds”.

It also claims it will boost national farming investments by £1bn in the next Parliament, which farmers can spend “on grants to boost food production”, and committed to “replicate the £100m UK Seafood Fund” which it says could go towards new fish processing equipment and technology.

The Liberal Democrats also place a focus on “food and farming” in their manifesto, though “food security” itself is not mentioned specifically.

Its goals include ensuring the food and farming industry “is on an environmentally sustainable footing”, delivering these sectors “a fair deal” through ways which include a renegotiation of trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand “in line with our objectives for health, environmental and animal welfare standards, withdrawing from them if that cannot be achieved”.

Among other targets, it also noted plans to boost consumer confidence by giving local authorities “greater powers and resources to inspect and monitor food production”, introducing clearer front-of-pack food labels, and making sure “imported food meets UK standards for health and welfare”.