UK beef sector faces 'catastrophic decline', body warns government
18th July 2023
The National Beef Association (NBA) has called for 'urgent changes' to current UK farming policies or else the beef sector will be pushed into a 'catastrophic decline'.
The organisation has sent a message to the Prime Minister, warning that 'misguided' farming policy will push the sector into 'crisis'.
While the letter acknowledges Rishi Sunak’s commitment to agriculture, it highlights a "lack of communication and coordination" in implementing policy, and "no forward plan for the maintenance and improvement in the UK’s food security".
As a G7 country, the UK as a whole manages to produce only 60% of its own food. However, the NBA says this trend is tracking downwards, and government action is required to prevent a "future major disaster in this vital area".
The NBA suggests that food security issues are being overshadowed by the Climate Change Committee.
"Poorly thought-out plans" including reductions in beef suckler herds in Scotland and Wales will "leave a gaping hole" in the requirements in England which are likely to be met by increased imports from countries with welfare and environmental standards below those in the UK.
The letter points out that this outcome would simply export the UK’s carbon responsibilities, when a "much simpler, and hugely more effective way to reduce our carbon footprint and maintain food security would be to support and develop the production capacity in the UK as a whole".
With separate and different carbon policies for Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the UK is "failing to capitalise on the unique strengths of these regions".
Setting climate protocols for each country separately rather than as a whole is "likely to lead to an increase in the overall carbon output, a dramatic reduction of the UK's level of food efficiency and security, and the destruction of rural communities and their way of life".
In the letter, the NBA urges Mr Sunak to recognise that government-appointed bodies are "failing him, the agricultural industry and the country".
"Covid and the Ukraine war have made it crystal clear that we must rely more on our own resources, not less," the letter reads.
"A coordinated balance between climate change objectives and food security must be struck to allow the UK to move forward with agriculture and the environment hand-in-hand, just as it has for centuries."
While the NBA’s letter to the Prime Minister is primarily written on behalf of beef producers, it also relates to other sectors of agriculture.
UK agriculture can and must improve, the letter says, but it is imperative that the UK continues to adapt to produce food in tandem with the environment.
The NBA's letter says: "The beef industry can play a vital part in both food production and carbon sequestration, helping to achieve higher levels of self-sufficiency and food security whilst ensuring our carbon output is environmentally kind.
"The consequences for the country if the government gets the balance wrong will be catastrophic. The failure of the UK agriculture industry is not an option."