Food Security

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:05 pm on 31st March 2022.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:05 pm, 31st March 2022

I always agree with my hon. Friend, but he makes an important point. It is not just fishers, of course; farmers, growers and everyone are still relating those additional costs.

I want to talk briefly about fertilisers because they are directly linked to our food security. We may be able to farm differently, and there is an important opportunity here, which I hope we can explore another day. Our ambition should be, as my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband has argued, to make a sprint for a greener future. Labour’s £28 billion per annum pledge will play an important role. In the short term, the fertiliser shortages are acute, and we know that as the gas prices rise, that creates particular problems. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit estimated that if current prices continue, the cost of extra fertiliser for British farmers will be £760 million, and the NFU is in no doubt that it will affect yields.

I appreciate that announcements were made yesterday, including the establishment of an industry fertiliser roundtable, which is welcome, but it must be accompanied by action. That includes the two fertiliser plants, which need to be back in action, and I ask the Minister to report on what is being done on that. The Minister will be aware that the European Commission has moved to allow direct intervention to get the Romanian plant going. What are the UK Government doing? While clarifications on the farming rules for water are broadly welcome, it is sorting out a mess of the Government’s own making.

In conclusion, Labour is committed to fixing the food system, ending the growing food bank scandal, ensuring families can access healthy food and improving our food security as a country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East said, we want to see more food grown in this country to a good quality, not the dumping of lower standard food imports, which will undermine our farmers. We want to buy, make and sell more in Britain, and make changes to public procurement so that our schools and hospitals are stocked with more locally sourced, healthy food. We would lead by example by putting high-quality food at the heart of our public buying.

At an animal welfare event yesterday—a Conservative-branded event—I was reminded that McDonald’s has higher animal welfare standards in its supply chains than the Government demand in the public sphere. It is a sobering thought, and I am afraid that it speaks volumes about the Government’s record. This country could do better. We can have a more resilient food system that feeds our people better and sustains, nourishes and protects our environment. For that to happen, it needs a Government committed to making food security a national priority. At the moment, I am afraid that there is precious little sign of that.