Monday, 4 January 2016

Food Security

Food Security

I remember when the Strategic Plan had been unveiled by the Council of Ministers, and Ian Gorst spoke about it at a Chamber Lunch. I raised the question of “Food Security”, which was notably missing, and was told there was going to be a report on it later in the year.

Of course nothing much has been done, as the reply by the Chief Minister seemed to be purely a means of diverting an awkward question. As I posted on Facebook:

“Expect panic buying and empty shelves as the lack of provision for food security strikes alarm. High winds mean less boats carrying food, lack of warehouses mean increased dependence on boats. Larger population means food runs out faster. It's not exactly rocket science. Government strategy on food security? Well, let's just say there's a lot of sand in Jersey's beaches for burying things.”

And another poster on Facebook commented:

“Well that was an interesting shopping experience in Jersey. Tried co-op, but with little available we also tried Waitrose. Bank holidays and bad weather doesn't give much food security on our little island. Very pleased to see full shelves of genuine jersey products - it just highlights the importance of buying local and keeping these businesses going!”

My correspondent, Adam Gardiner, was also out and about, and had this to say:

“It was very clear when I went out earlier that people were into panic buying mode. Waitrose was mobbed and the tail back from cars trying to get into their car park almost bringing Route Orange/Red Houses to a gridlock. Quennevais Parade not much better, Iceland also mobbed.”

“It shows just how dependant we are on not just the weather but Condor as a primary freight carrier and the knock-on effect caused when Liberation goes out of service. While Condor does not have a monopoly on freight, the Huelin Despatch is less able to carry foodstuffs - especially those with limited shelf life for a variety of reasons - not being a ro-ro for a start.”

“Your scenario is one we should all fear. There will come a day, and perhaps not in the not too distant future, when the supermarkets and food stores will run out of many essentials, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and bread due to poor contingency planning by Condor and lack of action from government to hold them to account and insist on a proper plan to keep the islands supplied.”

“To that end, I feel that the Islands MUST open up the northbound route to competition on freight, which unlike passenger services, would be easier to achieve. And while they go on about growing alternative crops for the cosmetics industry, they should first explore the issue of small-holdings and establishing a way to allow independent growers to set up supply into the local food chain if the big boys are not prepared to.”

An added irony to the empty shelves was an email from Waitrose telling me on the 2nd January that “this week you can save on Aberdeen Angus beef meatballs”. I shouldn’t think there are many on the shelves!

The Isle of Man adopted policies in 2014 on food security:

Supply chain - Maintaining reliable and efficient operation of ‘lifeline’ freight routes

Increased resilience of local agri-food and fisheries businesses: Helping local businesses fulfil their potential

Support for Agriculture: Supporting producers of agricultural produce through a period of change

Support for Fisheries: Supporting the sustainable management and development of Manx sea fisheries

Water and Energy Security: Securing supply of key inputs of food production

Climate change and low carbon future: Adapting to future challenges

Planning for the future: Agriculture, fisheries and sustainable growth

Food safety and food waste: Promoting a safe and sustainable food chain

Biodiversity and food production: The role of biodiversity in Food Security

Global considerations: The Isle of Man’s role as a responsible global citizen

And Environment, Food and Agriculture Minister Phil Gawne noted that “there is no question that our sea links to the UK are of paramount importance and this is identified as a priority in the strategy as a critical route for import and export”

The report notes that:

“Almost all of our food imports arrive by ship, as well as much of the chemicals, fuel and machinery needed for food production and processing. Ports are also the main gateway for food exports.”

“The Manx economy and the quality of life of its residents, particularly with respect to food and fuel supplies, are very dependant on a regular and frequent ferry service. In many instances the shipment of freight is undertaken on a ‘just in time’ basis built around scheduled timetabled sailings.”

“Periods of cancellation are currently rare, but when they do occur, severe disruption and economic losses result and it can take many days, with significant additional cost, to deal with the backlog.”

They note that “an import substitution policy is an attempt to reduce foreign dependency of a country's economy through local production of food by advocating replacement of imports with domestic production.”

Now Delta Innovation have produced “A draft Food Security Strategy for the States of Jersey” which says:

We worked with the States of Jersey to develop a draft Food Security Strategy, which set out four objectives for food security on Jersey;

To secure the availability of food
To secure the affordability of food
To secure the ability to produce food
To secure against supply shocks.

This sounds helpful, but unlike the Isle of Man strategy, I haven’t been able to find any trace of this document on the States own website. There’s a rural economy strategy, but that’s not quite the same thing. I wonder where those food security plans are hidden?

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams


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