By Kerry Maxwell, communications manager, British Poultry Council
This week I had the opportunity to meet with BPC scholars at Harper Adams University’s annual presentation. Watching students receive their awards and celebrating their exceptional potential contribution to the industry feeding the nation, I found it a good time to reflect on the outcomes of the Farm to Fork Summit that took place the day prior, hosted by the prime minister Two different events, both painting a picture of where British poultry stands versus where British poultry wants to be, and wondering who I would trust most with my industry’s future.
Many of the commitments from the Food Summit do the bare minimum. Commitments to British standards in trade deals and pledges to back domestic production are important but, realistically, do very little in supporting BPC members overcome the problems they face without concrete detail (like those border controls to level the playing field for UK-EU trade). Then there was the seemingly untouched ‘fork’ portion of the Summit. I think we are all in agreement the event left much to be desired in terms of solutions. However, watching scholars receive their awards and talking to them about their work, their passions and their ‘why’ the next day helped me put the Summit in some much-needed perspective.
We’re a sector with a strong track record for putting safe, affordable, nutritious food on tables across the nation whilst encouraging innovation and investing in talent. The BPC scholarship goes a long way in representing an industry that understands its value to society, underpinned by a responsibility to feed the nation, drive economic growth, and carve the path for efficient and sustainable food production.
A scholarship isn’t going to fix a crippling labour shortage or pose an effective alternative to an unfit immigration policy, but it is an example of how industry is harnessing the ambition, enthusiasm, and ideas necessary to shape the future of British food production. Those traits might be lacking in the pack of measures Rishi Sunak unveiled at the summit, yet they are exemplified by the scholars I met yesterday, and that fills me with optimism. No one wants to see British food fail, so now we must see Government match our ambition and enthusiasm with measures that support our producers, promote agricultural development, and ensure safe, affordable, nutritious, low impact food for all.
There is no denying the outcomes of the summit are yet to become tangible, but nothing was going to be solved in one morning. I still think there is a nugget of potential that BPC members can cling onto, where food security can finally be translated into meaningful objectives for producers. How we and Government work together to approach the challenges British food and farming is facing will define our industry for years to come. Therefore, it’s worth looking at the summit as the first step towards building effective solutions with industry colleagues all sat round the table on the same page, wanting to harness the same ambition, enthusiasm and ideas our BPC scholars show to shape British food for the better.