Leading food and drink figures are set to join forces with Welsh Government as they outline plans to place sustainable practices at the heart of the industry’s post-Covid recovery agenda.
Looking at areas such as growth and productivity, environmental impact, fair work and raising standards throughout, by working together it is hoped that government and industry can create one of the most environmentally and socially responsible supply chains in the world.
Outlining the vision with wider industry partner support, Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said:
“The last year has been one of extreme disruption for the industry here in Wales, from Brexit through to Covid-19. There will be many more difficult days ahead, however we must plan for a future that ensures food and drink businesses flourish over the coming years, both financially but also ethically. We are therefore outlining this week our future strategic vision for the industry over the next decade as one with a global reputation for excellence, and in pursuit of having one of the most environmentally and socially responsible supply chains in the world."
“To coin a well-used phrase, we appreciate that striving towards sustainable development - as outlined in our world leading Well-being of Future Generations Act - is a ‘process and not an event’. We are certainly not claiming to have reached the final destination, but we fully understand as a government, we have our role to play in ensuring that sustainability is seen as a crucial element of the whole food and drink supply chain, from field and sea all the way through to the fork.”
“Looking after our environment, people and livelihoods, while securing future prosperity and growth are the values that shape our policies and laws. This is especially the case with a growing body of research highlighting increasing consumer demand for stronger sustainability credentials.”
The Welsh Government is conscious that their vision needs to be measurable, with the aim over the coming years to support the industry through measured goals as it strives for the highest levels of environmental standards, while driving businesses to earn best-practice accreditation. Plans are already in progress to put in place key performance indicators later this year, including ensuring an upward trajectory of food accreditation and businesses signed-up to payment of the Welsh Living Wage. For farmers, the developing Sustainable Farming and our Land policy to replace the Common Agricultural Policy will ensure that sustainable food production will be synonymous with Welsh agriculture.
The announcement comes following extensive preparation work that has been ongoing throughout recent years, increased apace over the Covid-19 period, in order to build the foundation blocks for the ‘green shoots’ strategic vision emerging out of the current joint disruption of Brexit and Covid-19.
Global research has found that in key markets sustainability is important to 88% of consumers with 40% willing to pay more for sustainable food and drink. Research also finds Wales is well placed to capitalise on this increasing trend with a strong international reputation for producing high quality, tasty and natural products - highlighting that 84% of respondents believe that food and drink from Wales was synonymous with being “natural”.
Along with extensive research being carried out on consumer and retailer sentiment and buying habits the Welsh Government has also created practical support for businesses interested in driving innovation and efficiency through sustainable practices. Food Innovation Wales, the industry’s food centre support network provides for a host of companies one to one support in the area, while central to future plans will be a recently developed Sustainability Cluster of like-minded businesses. Already inundated with interest from food and drink businesses keen to collaborate, share best practice, as well as pull the wider industry upwards when needed to set their sights in reaching the vision.
Conscious of the push pull effect of needing to promote Wales’s provenance and quality credentials further in the wake of current pressures on the industry the Welsh Government will also be launching this week in the build-up to St David’s Day and beyond a range of media partnerships aimed at communicating with consumers both on a UK and international level to showcase the quality and provenance of food and drink from Wales.