Agriculture: Procurement

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 15 April 2024.

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Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to help ensure an adequate supply of (a) animal feed, (b) fertiliser and (c) CO2.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

a) Animal feed: The UK has a highly resilient food and animal feed supply chain which has coped well in responding to challenges in the past few years. Cereals and oilseeds make up a significant proportion of animal feed, most of which are internationally traded commodities. Subsequently, their supply chains are dynamic and responsive to global market developments in price and availability. These developments may be influenced by the war in Ukraine or additional factors unrelated to the conflict, such as weather conditions and currency fluctuations. Our high degree of food security is built on strong domestic production and imports from diverse sources. We recognise the essential role that domestic production plays in providing food security and resilience, which is why the government is committed to broadly maintaining the current level of food we produce domestically.

We continue to keep the market situation under review through the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group, which monitors UK agricultural markets including price, supply, inputs, trade and recent developments. b) Fertiliser: In 2022, nitrogen fertiliser prices increased to two to three times their recent nominal historic levels (imported ammonium nitrate prices were £870/t), due to increased global gas prices and conflicts around the world (including but not limited to the conflict in the Ukraine) as well as strong demand driven by high crop prices.

Defra is continuing to monitor fertiliser prices and supply chains through regular engagement with key manufacturers and wider stakeholders. We are also working with other government departments to coordinate intelligence and understand supply and pricing issues.

CO2: Defra works closely with stakeholders across the food industry, to encourage CO2 contingency planning and resilience. The tightness in supply of CO2 has eased and shown more stability recently and the industry has taken steps to make efficiencies and use alternative CO2 sources where possible. The stable supply of CO2 is vital to several CNI sectors including food and water. We recognise the importance of CO2 supply for our key sectors.

Over the past few years we have completed extensive work to build resilience into the sector including: monitoring and encouraging further diversification of production and supply in the UK; providing clarity on various regulatory questions, including through the Environment Agency’s publication of a Regulatory Position Statement on the capture, treatment, storage and use of carbon dioxide (CO2) from anaerobic digestion (AD) of waste; and working with industry on this supply chain through various forums. The diversification of this supply chain is being demonstrated through a series of recent industry announcements, such as British Sugar’s recent reopening of the CO2 capture plant at their Wissington site.

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