Farming bodies welcome Industrial Strategy’s recognition of UK food production

The National Pig Association (NPA) and NFU have welcomed the publication of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, which sets out plans to provide incentives to adopt innovative new technologies.

The strategy, launched on Monday by Business Secretary Greg Clark, seeks to ‘embrace the opportunities of technological change’ as we leave the EU, including a  £725 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

One of the priorities outlined in the white paper is putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution. Agriculture is highlighted as one of six target business sectors for a new government Office for Artificial Intelligence.

There are plenty mentions for agriculture throughout the strategy, which promises to ‘put the UK at the forefront of the global move to high-efficiency agriculture’.

“Over the coming years, as we replace the Common Agricultural Policy, we will increase the incentives for investment in sustainable agriculture, helping togrow the markets for innovative technologies and techniques. With powers set to return from the EU, the UK government is in discussions with the devolved administrations over future arrangements,” the strategy states.

“The world will need 60 per cent more food by 2050 to allow us to feed 9 billion people, while demand for water is expected to rise by 20 per cent in the agriculture sector alone.  For this to be possible, the way we produce our food needs to be significantly more efficient and sustainable.”

Positive strategy 

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “This is a very positive strategy for agriculture. We see the development and uptake of new technology as a key element of the pig industry’s future and this strategy shows the Government recognises it has a role to play, too.

“It is encouraging to see agriculture feature so strongly and the establishment of a new food and drink sector council covering the entire supply chain would be a welcome step.”

NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker: “We now need to come up with real incentives to encourage take up of that innovation. We also need to defne what we mean by ‘sustainable agriculture’, which is the catch-all term used in this document.

“For us, that is about incentivising technology that supports our drive towards high-health status, including using fewer antibiotics; helps the ongoing development of outcome-based animal welfare standards; and helps improve on-farm efficiency and productivity in the context of the competitive global marketplace.”

“The Government now has an opportunity to link this strategy in with the existing agri-tech strategy.”

Greater role

The NFU said the Industrial Strategy White Paper contains positive recognition that the British food and farming industry can play an even greater role in the country’s economic prosperity.

The Government’s ambitions for the sector set out in the Strategy pave the way for other Government departments to build on, it said.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “The NFU has been raising the profile of the agri-food sector ever since the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy began consulting on driving economic growth and productivity earlier this year.

“We are delighted to read of the Government’s desire to ‘put the UK at the forefront of the global move to high-efficiency agriculture’ as well as the likely prospect of a new Challenge Fund programme of research funding on ‘Transforming food production, from farm to fork’. The NFU’s work on setting out innovation needs for farming is a key ingredient.

“And we welcome the Government commitment to a new partnership with the whole food chain.  It will be critically important that the interests of our agriculture and horticulture members are represented on the proposed Food and Drink Sector Council, which will build upon the emerging proposals for an overarching Food and Farming Sector Deal.”

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