Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:31 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Crossbench 2:31 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for securing this debate and for her excellent introduction. I fully concur with the content of her speech. As other noble Lords have said, there are challenges and opportunities for the food supply chain in the UK as a result of the measures associated with dealing with coronavirus that have been taken.

First, many shoppers have had to substitute for goods imported from abroad those that have been produced in the UK. For example, in my own local supermarket these include lamb from Cornwall and yoghurt made in Devon using British milk, which were previously available only in small local shops. However, this may well be because our producers are having difficulty exporting and are therefore supplying goods at cost.

Secondly, significant concern has been expressed in rural areas that the very welcome school food vouchers to the value of £15 a week must be used largely in supermarkets and that the Government should have developed a system that would enable them to be spent buying from small local producers. It can be costly and difficult to get to a supermarket when you live, as I do, on Dartmoor in Devon. In principle, the vouchers could be used in local farm shops and stalls selling fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs and dairy products. Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government would be willing to consider these localised options for the use of school food vouchers, which may well assist not only the families and children in receipt of them but local agricultural food producers?

Furthermore, the lack of tourism is challenging local industries. Can the Minister explain how support will be increased to suppliers who have traditionally supplied to hotels and restaurant chains?