Farming: Task force set up to tackle disruption to food supply due to Ukraine conflict

The Scottish Government is to set up a short-life Food Security and Supply task force to monitor and respond to any potential disruption to Scotland’s food supply chain resulting from the conflict in Ukraine.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, will co-chair the task force
James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, will co-chair the task force

The group, which will be co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon and chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, James Withers will draw on technical and scientific knowledge and expertise from across a range of sectors, agencies and organisations, and will include key food and drink industry leaders who will meet frequently over the coming weeks.

Speaking in Holyrood yesterday, Gougeon said the task force would recommend any short, medium and longer-term actions that could be taken to mitigate impacts, resolve supply issues and strengthen food security and supply in Scotland, including actions which could be taken by businesses.

“The truly terrible events in Ukraine and the resulting western sanctions on Russia are, rightly, changing the way the world does business. Our immediate focus as a government continues to be on doing everything we can within our power to support the people of Ukraine and address their humanitarian need,” said Gougeon.

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“We need to take action now to better understand the potential impact of disruption to the food supply chain in Scotland, how industry and government might work together to manage and mitigate those, and be alert to the resulting impact on the cost of food products.”

The Cabinet Secretary said that over the last two years, the country’s food and drink sectors had experienced a series of shocks in terms of disrupted supply chains and new barriers to trade through Covid and Brexit.

“It is clear that the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine will have further impacts – not least through the hugely challenging increases in energy bills which affect households and everyone in the food industry, from farmers to hauliers, processors to retailers.”

She said that the taskforce would also work towards a sustained flow of food supplies to Ukraine: “We must not forget that there is a population still there that will desperately need our help and support in the weeks ahead.”

NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker welcomed the move and said it was key to address both the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and food security concerns at home.

“Inflationary pressures across the whole supply chain, from farm to consumer, have been building and market volatility has reached exceptional levels. The short life of the taskforce recognises the seriousness of the situation and the need to identify solutions quickly.”

Stressing that government action would be needed on the recommendations, he said: “The union believes that maintaining stability so that farming businesses retain their capacity to produce food must be a priority,” and added that the union had published a list of immediate asks of Governments, which included the removal of duty on red diesel, access to foreign labour, a relaxation on fallow regulations along with a ‘sense’ check on major forestry proposals to ensure food production was not hit.

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