An urgent four-nations summit should take place to consider how to respond to “hardship” in the food sector linked to the Ukraine crisis, Scotland’s rural affairs secretary has said.
Mairi Gougeon said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a “significant impact” on the UK’s food supply chain.
And while the Scottish Government has already set up its own taskforce to consider the issue, Gougeon insisted action was needed across the United Kingdom.
She has now written to her UK counterpart, the environment, food and rural affairs secretary George Eustice, telling him that the “sharp rise” in fuel prices resulting from the conflict is “contributing to the hardship being felt by our own food production sector”.
Gougeon said: “We have reports of these costs making it unviable for some fishing vessels to leave port, pig production costs becoming untenable, the food processing and storage sectors being hit hard with the general rise in primary product cost and the removal of tax relief for red diesel causing price increases beyond the levels of the limited fuel rebate.”
While she said ministers in the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had previously pledged to have “regular discussions” with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the issue, Gougeon claimed there had been “no opportunity for discussions with UK Government”.
The Scottish rural affairs secretary told Eustice: “I am concerned that this lack of engagement will only lead again to suffering by Scottish businesses who were left fighting for support to continue to deliver exports following the Brexit deal.”
Gougeon added: “At this time of global uncertainty when we must have food security, I have set up together with Scottish industry, a Food Security and Supply Taskforce to monitor, identify and respond to any potential disruption to the food and drink supply chain resulting from the impact of the war in Ukraine.
“It will seek to recommend any short, medium and longer-term actions that can be taken to mitigate impacts, resolve supply issues and strengthen food security and supply in Scotland.
“This taskforce met for the second time last week, and we noted that the significant increase in fuel cost is clearly jeopardising the ability of our food producers to provide resilience in supply.
“We would be happy to share our findings with you and the other devolved administrations.
“I would like to propose an urgent four-nation summit to discuss the significant impact of this, and possible options for support.”
Defra confirmed that the environment secretary has received the letter, saying he would “respond in due course”.
Meanwhile, a “Day of Action for Ukraine” was hosted by Ukrainians in Glasgow’s George Square on Saturday.
The event featured a host of speakers, musicians and artists.