By backing Welsh food and drink we can boost our communities’ post-Covid recovery

Grilled steaks. Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru Senedd Member for North Wales

The Welsh food and drink industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The sudden closure of restaurants and coffee shops and the collapse of the food services sector saw many Welsh farmers lose their markets overnight. We’ve all seen images of milk being poured down the drain and beef prices have also been hit, leaving many farms incurring losses and struggling to survive.

Plaid Cymru has campaigned hard for Government action to help these businesses, but we can all do more to help.

That’s why Plaid Cymru has launched the “I’m Buying Local” campaign.

We’re urging everyone to make that extra effort to back Welsh food and drink producers wherever possible. Helping to celebrate the world-class produce Wales has to offer, whilst increasing value to the local economy and lowering our carbon footprint.

Welsh agriculture is the economic backbone of our rural communities and market towns. It plays a vital role in the broader economy with exports of half a billion pounds in 2018, supporting the Welsh food and drink sector which employs over 240,000 workers.

Yet the coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated long-ignored issues within our food supply system, including our dependence on imports.

The UK Government has steadily withdrawn from food policy and allowed our food retail industry to become ever more concentrated in a few hands. Just four companies control 70% of the UK food retail market. The large food retailers have used that concentration of power to dictate ever-lower prices to our farmers, continually sapping the financial health of domestic agriculture and the rural economy.

Our food production model was fundamentally flawed before Covid-19. Yet for many people and even the UK Government, the frailties and flaws of the current food supply model only became apparent when they saw empty shelves as panic buying shattered the fractured supply chain.

 

Rethink

Plaid Cymru has a long-standing commitment to addressing the crisis in the food system that starts with a local procurement policy. Some councils in Wales procure school dinner basics such as potatoes and bread from Rochdale and Liverpool. Hundreds of millions of pounds leak out of the Welsh economy each year because local producers and enterprises are overlooked or are unable to compete with the bigger corporations.

It’s time Wales focused anew on developing our processing capacity to add much-needed value to our raw materials. The loss of abattoirs and dairy processing plants in recent years have meant hundreds of jobs lost, thousands of food miles added and primary food producers even more exposed to global markets.

Now is the time to rethink, reset and rebuild our food supply model from the ground up.

Wales needs a long-term food strategy, re-localising our food system with a strong emphasis on local procurement and shorter supply chains with both economic and environmental sustainability at its heart.

We cannot return to business as usual in a post covid-19 Wales. Buying local now can help start a move towards a better, fairer and more resilient future for our food and drink sector. One that puts our local communities at the heart of our economic recovery.

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WrexhamianP JonesPlain citizenDai MorganAdam York Recent comment authors
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Ceri
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Ceri

Diolch Llyr. Erthygl da a cytuno’n llwyr gyda’r polisi. Er hynny, efallai gall ASau Plaid (a phob gwleidydd arall sy’n ‘sgrifennu ar Nation) cyfansoddi erthyglau heb cyfeirio at polisiiau or parti yn uniongyrchol o bryd i’w gilydd. Dwlen i weld credoau yr unigolion, fel tithau, yn hytrach na ffeithiau gallwn i gyd darllen ar dudalenau wefan Plaid. Pam wyt ti’n credu’r pethau wyt ti’n credu – ti, Llyr Gruffydd. Wi’n pleidleisio am Plaid oherwydd eich cefnogaeth am rhyddid i Gymru – basai’n gret pleidleiso dros unigolyn o fewn Plaid oherwydd wi’n cytuno gyda’i ideoleg personol nhw. Os ddim, ‘mond pigo… Read more »

Ken Barker
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Ken Barker

Thanks Llyr. Fully support, and these are on the whole also the sustainable and local food policies of the Welsh Green Party. Can we urge the Welsh Government to address procurement and supply issues with local and health authorities and the supermarkets as we develop support for Welsh agriculture and horticulture?

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

Buying local should be governed by miles and type of production, not lines on the map. Industrialized farming and the food corporations’ dominance of supply are having a massive negative impact on the environment and our health whether it happens just inside Wales or just over the border, and even worse impacts when it happens overseas. Rubbish food is rubbish food even if it is produced in Cymru.

Helen Lewis
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Helen Lewis

Entirely agree but I’m not going to buy local food just because it’s Welsh. I need to know that milk for example hasn’t been produced in an ecological desert, and that meat hasn’t had routine antibiotics or been reared unsustainably. A food policy needs to be an environmental policy as well.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Be quick. UK Gov. want out of EU rules.

wynfford James
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wynfford James

Plaid Cymru and other opposition parties must take some of the blame that the food chain in Wales is not in a better place to face up to the challenges it now faces. They failed to ensure that the government implemented fully the Food For Wales ,Food from Wales 2010-2020 strategy.( a strategy led by a Plaid Cymru Minister) They failed to support the retention of the Agri food partnership which would have given us today a much needed network for joint working along the food chain. They also failed to ensure the establishment of an independent Food and Drink… Read more »

Adam York
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Adam York

Empty words.Local procurrement has been talked about forever,progress slow.Planning is fully devolved and there a number of opportunities to use this to a)promote Welsh non-supermarket businesses b)penalise supermarket operators.Plaid run local authorities can stretch TAN 6 right now to make Welsh food businesses more attractive.Public sentiment is very favourable but action scarce.If you can’t even apply 100% Council Tax against 2nd homers what hope Welsh farming?

Dai Morgan
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Dai Morgan

What practical proposals is Plaid putting forward to facilitate local purchase? As far as vegetables and fruit are concerned, isn’t the producer in Wales for the most part small and the agriculture end of the food chain atomised which leaves the producers at the mercy of the big buyers. There doesnt seem to be much effort to promote cooperative marketing of local products. This is an area, surely, where government could be going beyond reliance on encouraging consumer loyalty and actually make it easier to match consumers (whether individuals or institutions) to products? Some kind of cooperative organisation covering a… Read more »

Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

Need more detail so we know its not just pie in the sky.

P Jones
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P Jones

Cymru all stock farming only grow 5% of our vegetables while Holland a small country in 2016 that exported 67 billion $ of grown products second only to the USA, Holland had a plan which has produced great results while Cymru has no plan and if you have no plan then you’re planning to fail . EU farm subsidies have lead the farming industry in Cymru down an unhealthy narrow lane.

Wrexhamian
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Wrexhamian

This is a problem that should never have arisen in a country with a large agri sector like Cymru. Westminster seems intent on scaling down Welsh farming and ‘de-localising’ the Welsh dairy industry, with the compliance of the Welsh Government. ‘Re-wilding’ is a very real weapon at the anti-farming lobby’s disposal, and if Plaid Cymru can reverse this trend then it’ll meet with many people’s approval; but I won’t hold my breath.