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Manifestos must support organic trade

Manifestos must support organic trade

With a general election fast approaching on 12th December, and the UK having declared a climate emergency, this next term of office will be a crucial one when it comes to addressing some of the bigger environmental and societal challenges.

The UK needs to get serious about tackling climate change, restoring nature and making both us and our environment healthier. It’s encouraging that all parties are considering the big farming and land use challenges as they make their commitments to us the voters, but we believe they could go further.

A transition to agroecological methods makes good business sense

We believe that policies which help reduce the use of chemicals on farms and promote higher welfare livestock production must be adopted as part of an overall transition to agroecological methods by 2030. This is not only essential for the benefit of the UK countryside, our wildlife and our farm animals, but could also bring trade benefits too.

How will trade benefit?

As global demand for high integrity, low impact product grows, capitalising on our international reputation as producers of responsible, future facing products makes good sense. Exporting more agroecological and organic products offers a very real opportunity to support better farming and land use at home, whilst ensuring we don’t just export our own climate and nature impacts overseas.

Stop reliance on imports

Although the UK’s current Food & Drink International Action Plan specifically identifies organic as an important category for exports, seizing this opportunity means having something to export. A UK that remains heavily reliant on organic imports not only makes it difficult for UK organic producers to compete, but it also reduces the overall opportunity for exporters. Government must therefore prioritise supporting UK agroecological and organic production, not imports.

Protecting both the farming sector and UK citizens from low-quality imported food must also be a priority. Not only do we want to ensure that the UK avoids importing high-impact products, for example, those associated with deforestation, but we must also consider the wider impact of relaxing standards on imported food. Trade deals that open our ports to cheaper products, such as hormone treated beef and GM foods, will almost certainly have implications for both farmers’ livelihoods and public health.

Government buying power – the key to organic growth

Party manifestos need to go further with regard to investment in regional and local supply chain infrastructure for processing, marketing and distribution. Whilst healthy UK supply chains for agroecological and organic products are a prerequisite for the trade opportunities outlined above, they will also enable nature-friendly mixed farms to deliver more fresh, local food to UK customers at affordable prices. Emboldened Government buying power is something we also want to see a firmer commitment on. The UK should follow the example of countries like Denmark, where public sector procurement of organic supports the kind of food and farming systems we want to see becoming the norm by 2030.

We have done a roundup of how each of the party manifestos perform against our eight manifesto asks, so make sure to give it a read before you vote on the 12th December.

As we wait for an election, it's still wise for organic businesses to plan for a no-deal Brexit. Visit our Brexit Hub for info and checklists for your business, and sign up to our next Brexit webinars on 7 January and 13 January.