“After years of EU policy and grants to get rid of our orchards. Time to replant. Restore the garden of England.”

The Conservative Government have set out a blueprint to boost British fruit and vegetable sector as the first UK Food Security Index is published.

A new UK Food Security Index is being published today [Tuesday 14 May], as the Prime Minister tells British farmers and growers that we must go further to support them and secure the nation’s food supplies.

The first draft of the UK Annual Food Security Index will allow the government, industry and farmers to monitor the impacts of external factors, such as Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine or extreme adverse weather events. 

It will set out how Government will track UK-wide food security on an annual basis, monitoring domestic food production, land use, input costs and farmer productivity. This year’s index will show that the UK farming sector is at its most productive since records began. 

The Index has been published alongside a new blueprint to grow the UK fruit and vegetable sector in order to reinforce the country’s food security. The Food Security Index highlights that currently the UK produces the equivalent of just 17% of the fruit and 55% of the vegetables that end up on British plates, significantly lagging behind meat, dairy and grains. 

Conservative MP Sir John Redwood said:

“We grow far too little fruit in the UK, after years of EU policy and grants to get rid of our orchards. Time to replant. Restore the garden of England.”

The government say they want to help the horticulture sector to go further to tackle this challenge. As part of this, a new Horticulture Resilience and Growth offer, which will replace the retained EU scheme, will be rolled out. Through this new scheme, the government will look to double the amount of funding given to horticulture businesses compared to the current scheme, taking it to £80m per year, including making up to £10m available to help English orchard growers access equipment, technology and infrastructure to support the growing of great British fruit.

And the Prime Minister will launch a review into the barriers the horticulture sector is facing to upscale their businesses, including promising to cut red tape around the building of glasshouses. A further £15m will be invested into Genetic Improvement Networks to help boost access to more resilient crop varieties that require fewer inputs and cut farmer costs.

More than 70 businesses and producers working and supporting the food and farming industry are expected to attend the Farm to Fork Summit tomorrow, including farmers, Rodda’s, Fischer Farms, Tescos, Aldi and McCains. They will discuss the challenges facing the sector, including the adverse weather conditions they have faced. The past 18 months have been the wettest on record in England, and second wettest six months across the UK. The weather conditions have severely hampered crop production and put further pressure on farmers.

To help combat the impact of adverse weather, the Prime Minister will set out how £75 million fund to support internal drainage boards, announced at the NFU conference, will be used to protect agricultural land, including horticulture businesses, and rural communities from flooding, making them more resilient to climate change through two funds, one for repairs and one will go to building assets that boost resilience, such as pumping stations.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

“Come rain or shine, I will always back British farmers. From feeding the nation to protecting our countryside, they are vital to the security and the fabric of our country. 

“This package of support will help farmers produce more British food, delivers on our long-term plan to invest in our rural communities, and ensures the very best of our homegrown products end up on our plates. 

“I know for many farmers, the impact of adverse weather in recent months has made working the land even harder, but my message is clear, our support for you is unwavering and we will be with you every step of the way.”

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: 

“Food security is vital to our national security, which is why today’s summit is so important, bringing together government and key representatives from the farming and food sector at Downing Street.

“This announcement will turbocharge the growth of our horticultural sector supporting the building of cutting-edge glasshouses and innovative farming techniques to put British fruit and vegetables on our plates all-year round.  

“We will continue to invest in and support farmers to produce the best of British food to strengthen our food security, championing innovation in the sector.”

The Prime Minister will also announce at the summit:

  • Up to £3 million towards supporting small and mobile abattoirs to support British farmers. 
  • Delivering on a commitment we made in our response to the Rock Review into tenant farming and following a call for evidence, confirming that we will appoint a Commissioner for the Tenant Farming Sector (CTFS) this autumn.
  • A £72m fund to the Endemics Diseases Scheme, which will help eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea in cattle, control porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in pigs and tackle a range of different health conditions in sheep.
  • A £22m infrastructure grant for laying hens to help poultry farmers to improve the health, welfare and productivity of their flocks.

The government will also support farmers to get a fair price for their products by laying new regulations in Parliament for eggs, fresh produce and pigs, ensuring they have reasonable and transparent contracts. This follows similar action for the diary sector earlier this year. A new supply chain adjudicator, Richard Thompson, will also be appointed, to ensure fairness in the supply chain is being effectively enforced. 

Last week, the Environment Secretary announced planned automation funding of up to £50m for farmers, alongside an extension to the seasonal visa route for the next five years to ensure the sector has the labour needed while technology is integrated into packhouses and harvesting processes.

That followed the Prime Minister’s announcement at the National Farmers Union annual conference that the government would open the largest ever grant offer for farmers this year, expected to total £427m, including an unprecedented package of funding for technology and productivity schemes.

He told the conference that £220m would be injected into future-focused technology and productivity schemes to ensure farmers can access new equipment, including kit which increases automation to reduce reliance on overseas workers.

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