I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for securing this debate. All parts of the economy have been hit hard during this Covid crisis, with customers not spending in cafes and restaurants, resulting in a dramatic loss of income almost equal to the spend on food and drink through our retail stores. We have seen the demise of our dairy processing capacity during the pandemic, with 2 million litres of milk produced per day which would have gone to the food-service market. Spikes and drops are difficult to manage, with risks being passed down to farmers and growers. Taps cannot just be turned off and on. With a total UK grain crop of about 24 million, the collapse of maize demand from the ethanol market risks a deluge of feed grain on the world market in a prolonged price depression. Living in Lincolnshire, a very diverse county, labelled “the breadbasket of the UK”, growing Maris Piper and Cara potatoes to supply our chips and crisps sector, we have been hit very hard. The south of the county has one of the largest horticultural sectors, so I am pleased that restrictions have now been eased.
We must learn from Covid-19 regarding our approach to the domestic agricultural policy and international trade policy post Brexit. A focus on food security and food resilience during this epidemic is, and must be, financially supported. We must see the gradual phasing out of CAP direct payments and move to a welcome system that: rewards farmers and growers; increases farm productivity while delivering fairness along the food supply chain; includes a duty to support our environment; instils confidence for the long term; and builds capacity to increase our export markets. Post Covid, to see UK agriculture operate again in an increasingly global market, agriculture must not be left behind.