Learning from lockdown survey

By Professor Tom Macmillan

10th June 2020

Building on the findings from our public YouGov survey, this new research with over 380 professionals working in food, farming and the countryside finds a huge appetite for change and collaboration across the sector.

80% of respondents wanted most things to be different in the recovery. None wanted everything to go back to how it was before.

Lockdown has shown that the UK’s food system has the capacity for rapid and transformative change. This survey captures this major shift and a huge energy to do things differently.

The findings find some pride in how food businesses and farmers adapted to a shock that few businesses had planned for. Yet it also reveals that industry, public servants and community groups are eager to reset Britain’s relationship with our food, farming and countryside.

The survey shows a widespread desire for more collaboration and diversity, particularly through investment in shorter supply chains, as crucial to sustainable economic recovery.

70% of respondents say that the changes they want are possible by working together. This is despite most (59%) expecting recession and business failures to have a bigger long-term impact than recent changes in behaviour and values, such as cooking more from scratch or attitudes to nature.

Investing directly in communities and local businesses is a core theme throughout. 90% support shorter, local food supply chains, more diverse food UK production and better rural services, especially broadband and connectivity. 85% want better pay and conditions for land-based work. 70% want more power and resources devolved to local governments and communities.

You can use the data explorer below to dive into the responses in more detail:

Priorities for the UK’s food, farming and countryside include:

  • More collaboration and collective leadership to tackle the serious issues:
    79% agree that we need stronger relationships between government and society; and 50% agree they’re needed with business
    70% think the changes they want are possible if they and others work for it
    42% believe that central and local government should take the lead to “build back better”
  • More resource and investment in communities and rural infrastructure:
    93% want more investment in short or local food supply chains
    91% say better rural services, such as broadband and rural connectivity
    85% say better pay and conditions for land-based work
    69% say more power and resources for local government
  • On national food security and productivity, 91% say the UK needs more diverse and local sources of food production; 80% want more investment in research and innovation.
  • Reinforcing the results of FFCC’s YouGov survey at the early stage of lockdown, which showed the public noticing cleaner air and more wildlife, 73% of respondents believe everyone needs easier access to nature.
  • What surprised people: respondents were positive about collaboration, farming, dietary changes, small business and local food; mainly critical of government and buying behaviour (e.g. panic buying); and divided on the performance of the food system overall and on challenges relating to farm labour.

The Learning from Lockdown survey ran in May and 388 professionals responded. They included senior staff from large food businesses, farmers, estate owners, farming industry bodies, civil servants in Westminster, local and the devolved governments, government delivery bodies, campaign groups, community groups, and researchers specialising in food, agriculture and rural issues.

With thanks to everyone who responded. Just over half of respondents said that we could acknowledge them by name. You can find a list here. Respondents from the public sector are under-represented in this list.