By Mark Williams, chief executive, British Egg Industry Council
Last month the Poultry Health and Welfare Group held a conference on Avian Influenza (AI), to discuss the recent AI outbreak and how both industry and government can continue to work together to help combat potential future outbreaks.
The conference took place in Birmingham on 13 July, and was attended by around 100, representing every facet of the poultry industry, along with veterinary experts and government officials. The conference included presentations from AI experts in the field of epidemiology, government and industry, followed by a series of audience participation discussions on all matters relating to AI, including trade, biosecurity, vaccination and ways forward.
Abroad, the war in Ukraine rages on and is continuing to have a catastrophic impact on farming and agriculture in Ukraine, and on global food supply chains. The situation has become so dire that officials in Turkey, along with the United Nations, have for the last few weeks been helping to negotiate between Ukraine and Russia a grain corridor. These grain exports would take place across the Black Sea, as there are currently over 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos in the Black Sea city of Odesa in eastern Ukraine, contributing to the soaring prices for grains and other food products. Currently, all parties are optimistic, and if a grain corridor is agreed and most importantly enforced, it will be some much welcome news for food producers and farmers all over Europe and the wider world.
Moving on to the domestic political situation, in a matter of weeks the UK will have a new Prime Minister. By the time you read this, candidates to become the next leader of the Conservatives, and leader of the Government, will have been whittled down to two choices by MPs, for rank-and-file members of the Conservatives to choose from. A series of TV debates between the candidates have taken place, as well as multiple media appearances and policy events.
However, very little has been said by any of the candidates about UK farming and agriculture. The Government published its Food Strategy back in June, where food security and production were mentioned as key policy areas. The strategy was welcomed by a range of farming and agricultural groups, including the BEIC. The very publication of the report is something that many in our sector were initially sceptical would even occur. The BEIC, along with other organisations including the NFU, have noted that there are no guarantees that free-trade deals with countries with lower animal welfare and environmental standards, will not open the back door to imports that undermine those very standards that both consumers and farmers in the UK are proud of. The very same standards that the Government wishes to see raised even further!
We would like to call on the remaining candidates in this leadership race to acknowledge the fact that a domestic food strategy serves no purpose if food products that are produced using methods that are illegal here and across the EU in many cases, can find their way onto our shelves and onto the plates of consumers. British farming and agriculture deserve a commitment from whoever the next Prime Minister will be, that their government will prevent such an unjust and hypocritical situation from becoming a reality.