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FDF responds to Defra consultation on post-Brexit Food, Farming & Environment

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has responded to Defra consultation on the future domestic Agriculture Policy in England: 'Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit (see Caterlyst Food & Drink MFR section for consultation details).

FDF wants a successful and profitable food and drink industry that contributes effectively to the economy and environment of the UK. Food and drink should be an important part of the UK Government's approach to industrial strategy and we welcome the recent creation of the Food and Drink Sector Council as an important step forward. Farming for food production is a critical part of this renewed approach.

Food and drink manufacturing sits at the heart of the food and drink supply chain, which employs almost four million people and generates over £112bn of value for the UK economy each year.

Sustainable food production should be the key objective of the UK's future food and agriculture policy.

Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) presents the UK Government and devolved nations with the unique opportunity to consider the needs of the whole 'farm to fork' industry and create a bespoke policy.

The UK's 6,800 food and drink manufacturers operate in increasingly open and competitive international markets. This enables them to provide UK shoppers with a great range of products, available at all price points. FDF knows that its sector will only succeed if we continue to have reliable access to adequate supplies of raw materials that are safe, of high quality and competitively priced and it is therefore vital that we do not see any material reduction in the food produced by UK farmers.

The UK's food and drink manufacturers are committed customers of UK farmers, purchasing the majority of the country's agricultural output. However, UK manufacturers will always need to import ingredients for further processing. In many cases, the raw materials cannot be sourced here or the domestic capacity is simply not sufficient to meet demand throughout the year.

A sustainable food and farming policy must consider the entire supply chain, based on resource efficiency and comparative advantage rather than historical patterns of production. Food security and climate change pose the biggest challenges to the future of the UK supply chain. Managing risk and volatility is an important element of this.

As a result, for CAP reform to be successful any option selected as a result of this consultation needs to meet the needs of farmers and to create viable farm businesses. During the transition period, it will be helpful to reduce the burden on farmers. There is so much current uncertainty for farming business that the policy must ensure no further disadvantage as we exit the EU. FDF would also support simplification of the process and the introduction of 'earned recognition' to help achieve this.

It is also important that UK reform of CAP understands and takes into account the changing European CAP picture to ensure that our farming and food & drink businesses are able to operate competitively on a level playing field with rest of Europe. Any options chosen must have competitiveness as key outcome. An important part of this will be prioritisation of the maintenance and growth of business and trade between the UK and EU post Brexit.

Both the UK Government and the EU have expressed a desire to maintain free-trade. To achieve this, we advocate for the maintenance of UK-EU regulatory alignment, to avoid the possibility of trade frictions arising. The UK Government will also need to be clear how its policy aims in domestic production standards interacts with its international trade policy. Any divergence of UK farm support policy relative to current CAP arrangements would run contrary to these aims, and would present serious concerns to many of our members.