Urgent action is needed to address the immediate risks to domestic food production, and protect the interests of both consumers and producers in the UK.

NFU Scotland this week spelled out what the UK Government, Scottish Government, processors, retailers and the banking sector can do right now to shore up the industries that keep the country fed.

The union stressed that, while the focus must be on supporting Ukraine, the ramifications of the conflict in the region would challenge supply chains and economies far away from the fighting, and Scotland’s farmers and crofters wanted to address the growing concerns around food security at home.

Inflationary pressures and market volatility have been building to 'exceptional' levels, said the union, which warned that businesses needed stability to maintain their capacity to produce food.

To achieve that, NFU Scotland has asked the UK Government to:

  • Reduce the duty on red diesel to zero to address the rapid increase in fuel prices for agricultural operations;
  • Address rising energy costs via a price cap on wholesale gas, not least to ensure the continuity of domestic fertiliser production;
  • Consider all immigration policy options to encourage seasonal and permanent staff to meet the needs of the entire food supply chain.

NFUS asked the Scottish Government to:

  • Roll out Track 1 of the National Test Programme with utmost urgency. Introducing soil testing and nutrient management planning will enable all farmers and crofters to be more input (nutrient) efficient;
  • Commit greater funding to the Sustainable Agricultural Capital Grant Scheme to assist farmers to use resources more efficiently;
  • Temporarily suspend the Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) component of the 2022 Greening requirements to bring additional arable land back into productive use – with a focus on EFA fallow land being used for nitrogen-fixing protein crops.
  • Implement a rapid (and continuous) food production impact assessment of all existing and new legislation and policy affecting agricultural land use and practice;
  • To make such Food Security Impact Assessments an immediate requirement of any application for largescale forestry expansion on productive agricultural land.

Processors and Retailers were asked to:

  • Introduce a ‘cost tracker’ element to pricing Scottish and/or British produce that recognises the rapid price inflation on key inputs at farm level;
  • Commit to buying Scottish and/or British produce wherever possible to safeguard continuity of domestic food production.

And finally, banks were asked to:

  • 'Lend with agility' to provide farm businesses with flexible repayments and terms to ensure cash flow is maintained in the face of extreme volatility.

Using industry sources, the union is tracking the price of four key agricultural inputs – ammonium nitrate fertiliser; red diesel; feed wheat and feed barley. Current quotes for ammonium nitrate fertiliser – where it is available – are in excess of £900 per tonne. In March 2021, the average price was £271 per tonne.

On red diesel, farmers can order supplies for delivery but many will only have the price confirmed at time of delivery. Current average price for March 2022 delivery is 137p per litre. The average price in March 2021 was 60p per litre.

The average feed barley price ex-farm for March 2022 is £280 per tonne. The equivalent price in March 2021 was £162 per tonne. The average feed wheat price ex-farm on March 14 was quoted at £295 per tonne. The equivalent price in March 2021 was £203 per tonne.