Britain’s food supply is highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, according to Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City, University of London.
Lang said that greater emphasis is needed on domestic production in order to boost the UK’s food security.
Lang has suggested that the UK’s ‘just-in-time’ system is entirely dependent on computerised logistics, so that when a customer pays for your food at the checkout, the computer isn’t just adding up the bill, it is actually reordering the stock.
About a third of food bought in the UK comes from the EU. However, there are concerns that an exodus of EU workers from Britain over the past 18 months is having a significant impact on food production and distribution.
According to Lang, the UK should be aiming to be 80% self-sufficient in food production, compared with 50% at present.
Four words sum up what is needed in a new food policy, he suggest. “Food security – is there enough affordable, accessible, sustainable, decent food coming out of sustainable supply systems? And food defence – the need to protect supply lines.”
There are considerable costs in not adopting an integrated, coherent food policy, added Lang.
Lang and his fellow academics have produced nine principles and tests for a comprehensive food policy that include security, resilience, food poverty and reducing the concentration of food supply in the hands of a few giant companies.
The warning comes as concerns have been raised that the UK is facing a summer of food shortages likened to a series of “rolling power cuts” because of a loss of 100,000 lorry drivers due to COVID and Brexit.
“There is an enormous shortage of HGV drivers that we estimate at between 85,000 and 100,000,” said Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association.
“We are weeks away from gaps on the shelves, it is as serious as that,” he added.
A recent RHA survey of 796 businesses that employ 45,000 drivers showed that all companies had vacancies.
“We are saying to the government that they must put HGV drivers on the shortage occupation list urgently. We need to get a pool of labour quickly because we cannot train them quickly enough and we need to plug this gap. We’ll have British HGV drivers going on summer holiday soon, which means no backfill at all. So the problem is only going to get worse,” said Burnett.
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