Fishing featured on the agenda at the UK government’s second Farm to Fork summit in 10 Downing St on 14 May, held almost exactly a year after the first event. Mike Cohen and Elspeth Macdonald (pictured above), chief executives of the NFFO and SFF respectively, were once again able to make the case for fishing in the discussions around food security, innovation, the resilience of the UK’s food production, and what government can do to unlock barriers to growth.

The summit saw the publication of the government’s UK Food Security Index, which showed an alarming drop of 8% year on year on the country’s ability to feed itself.

However, this failed to look at fisheries data at all, concentrating on agriculture production, with the 8% drop attributed to poor spring weather, which will see a marked reduction in the production of wheat and many other crops.

The summit, by coincidence, took place on the same day that MPs were attending the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries, which was looking at Blue Food and heard from a range of speakers about the role that UK fisheries can play in providing food security, and ways to improve consumer awareness of this.

Speaking outside Downing Street, Mike Cohen said: “It was good to hear the prime minister clearly state his view that food security is an essential component of national security. While I would have preferred to hear him reference fishermen directly in his speech, the subsequent discussion and summary from Defra secretary of state Steve Barclay made it clear that Elspeth and I had kept fishing very firmly on the agenda.

“The role of our fishing fleets in supporting the nation is starting to get the recognition it deserves from our politicians, which is encouraging. If their acknowledgement develops into tangible help to protect and develop our industry, it will be even more welcome.”

Elspeth Macdonald added: “I was very pleased to represent SFF at the food summit again, and to use that opportunity to draw the government’s attention to some of the core issues impacting on our industry, such as the spatial squeeze and how our seas are managed, alongside workforce issues and how to encourage people to work in our sector.

“There are many parallels with the challenges facing land-based food production, and there was a strong message from all present for government departments to work together better to help our businesses and support a sustainable food system for the future.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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