A 20 year reputation of an industry traded for what?
A year ago I never thought I would be admitting to enjoying a lively debate about Brexit, but as we edge toward the end of the year and Covid-fatigue intensifies, I find myself engaged once again with the pressing issues around trade agreements with the US and what this means for food and farming.
Few concerns for the consumer attract as much attention as the threat of chlorine washed chicken and hormone treated meat. The article this month in The Grocer answers a majority of the practical questions asked by our industry, so I would rather focus on something I believe hasn't been considered enough.
I would like to see more consideration for the reputation that British farming has carved out for itself in some of the most impossible circumstances. We as consumers squeeze our farmers to produce fresh produce, meat and dairy products to the highest production standards of food safety and animal welfare codes in the world, while expecting a whole medium chicken to cost less than a fancy coffee (let that sink in for a minute...).
We have over 25 years of researching consumer attitudes in this industry and so have seen first hand the shift in importance towards quality, sustainability and farming practices, to the extent where they have gained an equal footing to that of price.
Even the most recent research we have undertaken on behalf of clients has shown that despite global pandemics and imminent recession threat, these values still hold true. That is solely down to the work of the industry in educating consumers and championing those standards as valuable.
This level of trust that the industry has been so careful in nurturing is at risk of being decimated overnight with the introduction of cheap imports that aren't required to meet these standards, while the consumer population is feeling economically vulnerable.
To even consider this is a crass move by a short termism government who has no respect for the decades of work that has gone before. If this goes ahead we can not only kiss good-bye our reputation and our ability to produce our own food as our own farms and farmers simply cannot compete under these conditions.
That is a dangerous road to be walking right now, and one that could turn out to be a one way street with no way back.
Managing Director, England Marketing