We joined the Food Manufacture Business Leaders forum on 17th January to discuss the critical issues – many of which have been covered in UKFM webinars and briefings over the last year – cyber security, energy prices, inflation, business resilience and food safety to name but a few. It is likely that these themes will come out in articles in this magazine and the grocer over the coming months.
UKFM has been attending meeting exploring future collaboration with academics for relevant R&D research projects.
YEN Conference 2023
The Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) brings together growers looking to push their farm production to higher and higher levels. UKFM sponsors a competition with YEN, the Milling Wheat Quality Award, which each year recognises the growers who achieve high yields alongside excellent milling and baking quality. This was the first time we presented the quality awards at the YEN Conference itself, instead of the AHDB Milling Wheat Conference, which is no longer running.
UKFM attended the conference with a stand that displayed the grain and loaves of the ten finalists from this year’s competition. Entrants to the competition were very eager to see loaves made from their grain and understand the subtle quality differences that separate an excellent loaf from a moderate one. The audience was primarily farmers and throughout the presentations and discussion panels on the day the theme of attention to detail separating the good farmers from the excellent emerged. UKFM represented the milling industry on a panel discussing the challenges facing cereal farming and processing in the coming years. Here we emphasised the pressures around nitrogen fertiliser amid rising costs and sustainability concerns, as well as the important role milling wheat and flour plays in the nation’s food security and the need to ensure production is not compromised, particularly as the global demand for wheat continues to tick upwards.
Staff met with Ofqual to explore accreditation of our distance learning programme.
Gene editing event
The secretariat attended an event on how gene editing can be implemented in modern food systems, featuring expert speakers with a background in gene editing and genetic modification research, as well as the food safety regulator and food retail industry experts. The event presented the findings of a survey that looked at the challenges around introducing foods with gene edited ingredients to the market. UKFM had participated in this survey, emphasising the need for customer assurance, transparency and regulatory alignment. The event served as a reminder of these challenges, but also of the opportunity of gene editing in allowing plant breeding to be more precise and controlled, and to help plant breeders deliver more sustainable crops that will require less inputs and be more resilient to extreme growing conditions. The secretariat will continue to engage with FSA and Defra as the Precision Breeding Bill makes its way into law, ensuring the milling industry voice is heard and members are kept informed of relevant developments.
UK Agri Food/WRAP
UKFM attended the latest UK Agri Forum meeting chaired by WRAP. These meetings are an opportunity to hear from companies developing tools and researching the most appropriate metrics to collect data for Scope 3 emissions on farms. At the meeting we heard from the Science Based targets Initiative (SBTi), from the Sustainable Food Trust that developed the ‘Global Farm Metric Framework’ and from the Green Finance Institute that spoke about “mobilising private finance for nature-friendly farming”.
APPG: Food and drink supply chain
UKFM participates in several All-Party Parliamentary groups which bring together MPs and members of the House of Lords with business and other stakeholders. These include groups on Food and Health, Science and Technology in Agriculture, Food, and the Food and Drink Supply Chain. The last of these met on 18th January with the Minister for Food and farming to explore energy issues in the Food and drink Sector. This meeting provided an opportunity to reinforce at a political level arguments that were already being made with civil servants.
Fertiliser task force
UKFM is a member of the small task force that is convened by DEFRA ministers to help ensure a consistent supply of fertiliser to UK farms; this dovetails with our other work supporting third parties such as ADAS and AHDB in looking at the economic benefits of applying fertiliser even when prices are relatively high. We continued to remind the chain of the flour milling industry’s requirements and that with the current bread wheat premium of around £60 per tonne grain markets offer an excellent return to growers who meet our protein specifications. DEFRA ministers are aware of the strategic importance of this issue for resilience in the country’s food supply, and it’s linkage with the supply of carbon dioxide and nitric acid which also have critical uses in the food chain.