FOOD shortages are something we had hoped belonged to the past and if anything were always only supposed to be anecdotal reminders of days gone by, writes FUW president Glyn Roberts.

Sadly, we are seeing exactly that now with vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and other salad items being conspicuous by their absence on supermarket shelves.

Whilst much can and has been said about the advantages of seasonal eating and eating locally produced food, this discussion does not really deal with the problem we are facing.

The particular problem manifesting itself on supermarket shelves has complex roots which include climate change leading to unseasonal weather in both North Africa and Spain, high energy prices and a lack of UK Government support for producers here in the UK which has made production uncompetitive for UK growers and of course, there is a contribution to the mess from Brexit-related bureaucracy which makes the UK a less attractive market for European suppliers.

The main culprit in our trading relationship with the EU is paperwork, which seems to make it more challenging for producers to get their produce shipped to the UK on time.

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This is made worse by a shortage which means that producers can sell all their produce within the EU without even needing to deal with the added hoops of selling into the UK.

At the same time, our own producers struggle with a shortage of seasonal workers on UK farms which, coupled with much higher energy prices has resulted in UK producers being unable to produce at a level which is attractive to the Supermarket buyers.

What is so frustrating about this is that the FUW warned of such problems before and after the Brexit vote but still we see very little being done to help the situation. 

A point we have stressed repeatedly since then, and especially since the start of the tragic conflict in Ukraine, is that our nearest neighbouring countries, the majority of which are EU members, are partners in the most stable trading bloc in the world, and have acted rapidly to secure European food security in the face of a myriad of threats.

The FUW feels strongly that having decided to leave the EU our Government needs to be nimble and quick on its feet in terms of a response to high energy prices which were a direct result of the invasion of Ukraine by Putin and the food supply issues which were a result of weather conditions within our extended supply chain.

Brexit of itself is not the issue perhaps but if we are slower in responding to the challenges than an organisation comprising 27 countries then there are legitimate questions that demand a response. 

Working closely with our nearest neighbours represents the most practical, carbon-friendly way of restoring UK food security while protecting our own food and farming industry.

The FUW calls again on the UK Government to seek to restore its relationship with the EU and neighbouring countries in order to protect food security here in the UK.

Whether it’s facilitating less friction at the border or actually recognising that production of poultry, eggs and salad produce has a high energy use, the UK Government needs to step-up to the plate and put into action some of the rhetoric about being nimble and quick to respond to challenges in a post Brexit world.

Not having access to salad and vegetable produce could be the tip of the iceberg in years to come.

However, we believe that we do have the answer to food security right here on our doorstep through frictionless trade with the EU market and also a commitment, long overdue perhaps, that food security is an issue and that our farmers are not just capable, but willing to produce food to world leading standards whilst ensuring that we are less open to global events as we move forward.

Back in the period of the last Labour Government the attitude to our food security was basically one of ‘leave it to the supermarkets’.

It was short termism back then.

Now, in a more dangerous post-Brexit world it’s a dereliction of duty for the UK Government not to seek a real partnership with farmers in order to bring forth a plan to lessen our vulnerability in the face of real challenges to global food supply chains.

Members can rest assured that the FUW will continue its lobbying work on behalf of the farmers of Wales to ensure we have thriving sustainable family farms for generations to come and that by doing so, we can all enjoy a secure, trustworthy and sustainable food supply.