Rural Affairs Secretary to call for summit with retailers

Tractor, trailer and combine harvester in a field

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead will meet with his UK counterparts and UK farming leaders on today in London to discuss the current issues affecting the farming industry.

Mr Lochhead has voiced his concerns over the impacts falling prices are having on the sector and at the meeting in London chaired by DEFRA Secretary of State Liz Truss he will call for an urgent coordinated response, including a UK-wide meeting with all major retail and food service providers.

Mr Lochhead said

We are all very much aware of the issues currently facing farming ranging from the impact of the weather which has been particularly challenging in parts of northern Scotland to falling prices.

Given that action will be required at Scottish, UK and European level, and given that these issues affect farmers in all our countries, a coordinated response is essential to give all our farmers support in their hour of need.

That’s why I will put it to the UK Secretary of State and other farming ministers that we should jointly invite all the UK’s major retailers and food service providers to meet and look at the steps we can take to support our food industries and support our primary producers.

The last time that such a summit was convened by a UK Secretary of State was during the horsemeat crisis and now it’s time for similar urgency and for Liz Truss to host such a meeting to get all those who wield influence in our food systems into the same room at the same time.

I also encourage the public get behind the industry by supporting local produce.

Too often retailers and food service providers crowd out local produce with imports but it’s now time for a rebalancing act – we need a food system that protects our own producers.

NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said

Given the importance of the retail and food service sector to the fortunes of the nation’s farmers, it is crucial in the midst of this crisis that they take their responsibilities seriously.

We welcome this call from Scottish Government for all key players to sit down and look for solutions. These should revolve around the need for farmers to receive a sustainable price for their produce if we are to ensure supplies of Scottish and UK goods for our consumers in the future.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet retailers and the food service sector in private. That would provide scope for a frank discussion on the impact that sourcing and pricing policies can have on primary producers and what is needed to keep family farms in business.

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