Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.

This is a guest blog by Dr Ludivine Petetin, Senior Lecturer in Law at Cardiff University and member of the Agricultural Law Association Brexit Advisory Committee. Here, she discusses why food security is one of the most pressing issues facing us today.

Food security is one of the most pressing issues facing us today. The COVID-19 pandemic and the stalemate between the UK and the EU for a future trade deal has clearly showed us that we need to rethink the way we produce our food.

Here in the UK, we only produce 60% of the food we consume, and the rest is exported to the rest of the world. For example, 40% of Welsh lamb is exported and 92% of these exports are to the EU.

With a global food crisis looking likely, the incentive for improving productivity to ‘feed the world’ is appealing, and the risk of going back to less environmentally friendly practices are a real threat. Rather than regressing and lowering environmental standards, there is an opportunity to increase the push for sustainability, agroecology and agroforestry and to fully implement the Well-being of Future Generations 2015 and the Environment Act 2016.

Reshaping the way we produce food

Brexit and COVID-19 has shown how important it is to have agri-food supply chains that are operational. These issues also provide opportunities for us to rethink how agri-food systems work, and how we can increase the localness of the food supply chain.

It’s crucial that future agri-food systems are redesigned to be fair and just for all and that decision making throughout these systems and at all levels lead to this outcome. I discuss this requirement in greater detail in a recent open access journal article that I wrote in April 2020 entitled ‘The COVID-19 Crisis: An Opportunity to Integrate Food Democracy into Post-Pandemic Food Systems’.

In order to build fair and just agri-food systems that are reliable and work with nature, and that are local and resilient in a post-pandemic Wales, we need to focus on four characteristics:

  1. True information, genuine choice and alternative products being offered to consumers.
    Some local farmers, suppliers and shops have been resilient in supplying the local population by improving their online presence and developing home delivery services – demonstrating the ability to quickly diversify and building resilience. Meanwhile, fruit and vegetable box schemes providers have responded positively to the increased local demand. Crucially, citizens have shown interest and support for local, Welsh, sustainable and healthy food (often produced organically) – indicating a shift in consumption pattern.
  2. Increased participation of local food producers in the formulation of farming of local and national sustainable agri-food policies combining with a top-down approach from local and national authorities.
  3. Improvement of the working conditions and wages of farmers and agricultural workers and their opportunities to increase the involvement of the population in supporting local producers and participating in the act of production itself to improve decency and social justice.
  4. Restoration of faith and trust in the food system and its institutions by building transparent food supply chains with a stronger and fairer role for the farmer; and improved links between supermarkets and local producers, with greater powers in contract formation given to the farmer.

 The ‘Sustainable Farming and our Land’ document published in 2019 is no longer fit for purpose to resolve the challenges faced by the agri-food supply chain post COVID-19. Agricultural and food policies can no longer be kept apart and need to be based on multilevel approaches with crucial input from farmers. Closer engagement with trade, health (including diet) and migration (for agricultural workers) policies is also lacking.

Moving forwards towards green recovery, better coordination between the different levels of governments and governance within Wales and the rest of the UK as well as between public policies is crucial to enhance sustainable, joined-up approaches to agri-food systems that lead to holistic, democratic agri-food policies supporting primary producers and local shops.