Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:52 pm on 14th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour 1:52 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who, like me, farms down here in sunny Somerset.

I will make three very short points. First, at the production end, the acute labour shortage is being temporarily patched by students and furloughed workers. However, long term, it cannot be met from domestic labour. The details of a long-term agricultural visa scheme must be rapidly finalised and rolled out, and rolled out beyond just horticulture, as other parts of the land economy need it too. The numbers must be dictated by the needs of the industry, not some government target, as the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, just said.

Secondly, the bottom fell out of the market for not just milk but beef and lamb too. Producers are trying hard to find new markets with direct sales to the public both locally and online. Small and medium-sized local abattoirs are essential for this, but few remain. The giants are often distant and do not cater for small, private kills. The benefits of short supply lines are now apparent to us all, as are the public benefits of reduced food miles and local food from known provenance. In relation to future funding, local abattoirs need to be recognised as a public benefit by local enterprise partnerships, the shared prosperity fund—which we are all looking to—and local authority planning applications.

Lastly, small, local shops, whether in a village or on a street corner, have often stepped in when supermarkets have failed to cope, especially with services for the vulnerable and those in most need. They are the heart of the community at this moment. We must continue to use them more in future and support charities such as the Plunkett Foundation, which helps to set up community shops and enterprises.