by Patrick Hughes, Agri Exports Manager, SAOS
The impact of the crisis in Ukraine has been felt all across the globe, and while the focus rightly continues to be on doing everything we can to support the people there and address humanitarian needs, the wider consequences of the conflict also require attention.
The situation is having wider impacts – adding to rising energy prices, acute labour shortages, challenges to logistics and transportation, and significant increases in the cost of raw materials, to name just a few. However, while there is greater external pressure on food supply, immediate resources of and human and animal food are secure.
In March, the Scottish Government set up a Short-life Food Security and Supply Taskforce to: “monitor, identify and respond to any potential disruption to food security and supply resulting from the impact of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine”. The taskforce recently issued their report, which outlines a number of short, medium and longer-term recommendations including the creation of a Food Security Unit to: “monitor risks, increase resilience in food production and respond rapidly to emerging issues”.
The report also acknowledged that, in addition to the impact of the Ukraine crisis, the Scottish food and drink supply chain has experienced a series of significant shocks, including Covid-19, climate change and Brexit. These have contributed significantly to the disruption of supply chains and created demanding trading conditions.
The farming sector is facing challenges from many angles, but the war in Ukraine has highlighted the vital role that farming plays within the food and drink supply chain in safeguarding and promoting food security. Unfortunately, co-ops and their farmer members are not immune to supply chain shocks and will continue to face challenges in the weeks and months ahead.
Being part of a co-op can be of great advantage in times of crisis. Ensuring the lines of communication are working effectively within the co-op allows members to feel less isolated in challenging times. Encouraging and sharing best practice, such as by highlighting cost-saving measures or harnessing more innovative practices, are other ways in which co-ops can bring additional value to their farmer members.
To overcome challenges and move forward, in increasingly uncertain times, farming businesses must be aware of risks and potential outcomes, better enabling themselves to make informed choices. Co-operatives are well-equipped to be part of the solution by helping promote resilience and mitigating risk within their own enterprise and with their member businesses. For this to be truly effective, co-ops must ensure they have strong, two-way communication channels with their members, and their members must be receptive to the idea of necessary change.
Our farming sector plays a vital role within our food and drink supply chain and within our rural communities. Helping co-ops get through these current challenges isn’t just important for their farmer members or for their communities, it is essential for the country as a whole.
Patrick leads on identifying, understanding and developing new overseas market opportunities for Scottish agricultural exports of potatoes, cereal, and fruit and veg, as well as maintaining current ones. This involves working with export development partners to facilitate introductions with new and existing customers and supply bases, and exploring potential markets in line with the industry’s strategic aims. Patrick has worked closely with food and drink businesses for over 25 years to highlight best practice, and promote and develop market opportunities in the agri-food sector.