The Sustain alliance for better food and farming has released a new piece of research which aimed to map food supply chain infrastructure in East Sussex and Lancashire. This mapping exercise wanted to find out what infrastructure farmers in those areas might need to supply into more local markets.

This is part of Sustain’s work around farming policy and shifting towards shorter, agroecological and farmer-focused routes to market.

A driver for their work is down to the way the UK’s food supply chain has become very centralised and opaque. In retail, just 9 supermarkets control over 90% of a market that is worth roughly £200 billion per year.

This power imbalance and control has clearly led to several environmental, economic and social issues linked to food and farming, that are caused in both the UK and overseas. Sustain and its members know that these large supply chain actors use unfair trading practices and have low environmental expectations.

For instance, farmers’ incomes and workers’ wages have shrunk with a reducing amount of the consumers spend going back to the producer. And environmentally, supermarkets have contributed to driving farmers towards higher uses of synthetic inputs and industrial practices.

The Sustain Alliance believes that a degree of relocalisation might help to overcome some of those critical issues at a time when the UK Government is seeking to ‘level up’ the country.

Amber Lawes-Johnson, Doctoral Researcher at UK Food Systems Centre for Doctoral Training & Consultant Research: “We hope this report acts as a roadmap toward the future design and management of farmer-focused supply chains that are reflective of supportive infrastructure that can accelerate the transition to shorter, resilient and sustainable UK food production.

James Woodward, Sustainable Farming Officer at Sustain: “Local food and farming infrastructure has been slowly lost over recent decades. We know how important access to infrastructure like food processing, storage and distribution is to the ability of farmers to supply into local markets. Hopefully this project opens possibilities for investment in local food systems as the UK Government aims to ‘level up’ the country.

FoodFutures, in partnership with Sustain, plans to organise an event in May 2022 to share the report’s findings and identify key next steps to take forward recommendations in North Lancashire.

Read the full report here:


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