Is the UK agri-food sector supported in its goal of generating ‘greener’ economic growth?

Robert Sheasby was speaking at the group’s Agribusiness Conference on Feed, Fertilizers, Crop Protection and Seed Trade on November 17.

The event learned that concerns remain about funding to support greater innovation within the UK’s agriculture and food chains.

Questions have been raised as to whether the UK legislative environment will encourage farmers and supply chain businesses to invest in the right initiatives, at the right time, to achieve Net Zero goals by 2050.

UK legislation impacting agriculture should be science-based, underlined Angela Booth, AIC President. “We want a strong and practical regulatory framework.

With the event taking place just four days after 197 countries agreed to urgently accelerate action on climate change at COP26, Sheasby said many stakeholders are starting to wonder who will cover the costs associated with carrying out such work.

“Some of the increased costs of greening can be shared and absorbed by the supply chain, and others offset by efficiency gains, but not all. “

UK Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis explained that the UK agri-food industry can mainstream sustainability through three pillars of food production, carbon capture and biodiversity.

And, although funding for farmers cannot be guaranteed under future UK governments, she pointed to the new agricultural investment fund designed to provide grants for new equipment to improve efficiency and reduce impact. environmental. She also noted the opportunities that gene editing technology could offer in terms of improving crop resilience and nutritional value.

Carbon balances

Sir Dieter Helm, professor of economic policy at the University of Oxford and researcher in economics at New College, Oxford, has challenged the assumption that the UK needs to shift to domestic production of food or food ingredients for reduce carbon emissions.

Instead, he said there had to be a carbon price at the border: “This means a change in the structure of trade to reflect not only transport costs, but the relative prices of the carbon intensity of the inputs that produce the products that enter the global food supply chain.

Rethinking the supply chain for a zero carbon world will require companies to conduct a carbon audit of the entire supply chain, he continued. “Once you start asking these questions, you open up a lot of problems that you will need to solve if you want to present yourself as net carbon. But you also open up great opportunities.

Collaboration on insect feeding

Dr David Telford, Head of Agribusiness at KTN, explained how collaboration is vital for sustainable transformation.

KTN, he said, has brought together 15 organizations to accelerate the development of insect protein for animal feed in the UK, with a collaborative funding offer worth £ 9.8million , which will hopefully lead to significant savings in carbon emissions.

Sophie Throup, head of agriculture, fisheries and sustainable sourcing at UK supermarket group Morrisons, highlighted the huge challenge for supermarkets trying to tackle sustainability issues, where more than 100,000 raw ingredients could fit into 12,000 products on the shelves, each with its own story. , ingredients and sourced from approximately 2,500 different suppliers.

The retailer, however, has pledged to achieve net zero as a collective within its direct-sourcing agricultural supply chain by 2030, she said, with initiatives to reduce broadcasts, reduce costs and provide training, fund research and improve communications.

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