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Coronavirus has exposed UK government’s failure to implement a long-term food plan

29 May 2020

Image of fresh fruit and vegetables at a market

A group of food experts, including Sustainable Places Research Institute Director Professor Terry Marsden, has warned that planning is needed to deal with short-term emergencies and to address longer-term risks to the UK food system.

Professor Marsden, Professor Tim Lang of City, University of London, and Professor Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex have written an opinion piece arguing that big issues for the UK food system have been heightened by coronavirus.

The authors opine that the coronavirus pandemic quickly showed that, even after problems highlighted by the threat of a no-deal Brexit, there was still no formal UK food plan other than the government’s belief that big retailers “will sort it”.

Food policy and planning have not been easy bedfellows in policy and political discussions, the authors say, and many in positions of power still harbour the view that food is best delivered through the market, rather than that it is a “public good”. However, they argue, the current crisis has magnified the problems that arise from these assumptions.

The experts argue that a de facto state has emerged, that concentrates on existing market power rather than tailoring supply to public need and a fully-fledged food plan is needed urgently. Until there is a vaccine, the threat of the virus will dominate lives and economies; however, the need for a stable food supply and healthy consumption, however, will remain constant.

A truly resilient food system would decrease not increase market concentration in food; would put health and equity at the heart of food supply for the coming months and years; and speed up development of a food plan that has long been needed.

Read the full opinion piece on the Sustainable Places blog pages.

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