Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s Food Security Summit, which will be taking place on Tuesday May 16th, the UK Fruit and Vegetable Alliance (FVA) has announced their resignation from the Government’s Edible Horticulture Roundtable, citing ‘disappointment at the decision not to develop a horticulture strategy for England'.
In June 2022 the Government Food Strategy stated that it would develop a Horticulture Strategy for England. Despite this, and without any consultation with key horticulture stakeholders, Defra minister Mark Spencer confirmed last week that any plans to develop this highly-anticipated strategy have now been scrapped. This was a decision made in January with no public announcement or communication to the FVA or other key stakeholders.
The UK currently imports over half of its fruit and vegetables, and recent shortages on supermarket shelves have exposed the risks associated with this over reliance on overseas imports and has highlighted the need to grow the UK’s domestic horticulture sector. Tuesday’s Food Summit has been organised with the intention of addressing the need to boost domestic production yet
According to the Government’s own public health recommendations vegetables and fruit should make up 40% of our diets by weight. Yet yet edible horticulture receives the least amount of Government money, on average 7 times less than any other farming type.
Increased input costs combined with labour shortages have left the sector on its knees - with many being forced to abandon or down-scale production this year. At a time when pressures facing the UK horticulture sector are at an all time high, Landworkers’ Alliance as well as the rest of the Fruit and Vegetable Alliance believe that these issues are both complicated and multi-faceted and warrant concerted strategic planning in order to be properly addressed.
An extract from the FVA’s letter of resignation reads:
The horticulture strategy for England was one of the most positive aspects of the Government Food Strategy, addressing as it did the recommendation in Henry Dimbleby’s Independent Review that “to meet health, climate and nature commitments and bring us up to 5 a day there should be a 30% increase in fruit and veg consumption in the national diet by 2032 (compared to 2019).
A year on from the publication of the Government Food Strategy, the need for a horticulture strategy is greater than ever, as cost price increases and unfair trading practices in the retail sector are leading to growers reduce their acreage of vegetables and fruit. To rely on imports from countries like Spain, Kenya and Morocco is far too risky in the face of climate-change and political instability, as illustrated by the shortages of imported salad vegetables this February and March.
Only by turning UK horticulture into a prosperous and environmentally sustainable sector, are we likely to attract the investment and the skilled workforce we need to ensure long term security of fresh produce supply. Regrettably, without the ambition to create a horticulture strategy for England, we have been led to question the Fruit and Vegetable Alliance’s ongoing participation in the Edible Horticulture Round Table… we are, therefore, withdrawing from the EHRG until such point that Defra is prepared to recommit to developing a horticulture strategy.
Dr. Amber Wheeler from the Landworkers’ Alliance and Secretary of the UK Fruit and Vegetable Alliance said:
“Let’s be clear - the UK Government is putting the nation’s food security and health at risk by a fundamental lack of strategic thinking. Next time there are empty veg shelves there will be no other place to point the finger than at the Government.”
Chris Rose from the The Asplin’s Producer Organisations (FVA member) said:
“Growers across all of UK edible horticulture are struggling with rapidly rising costs meeting static or falling returns and many will be forced out of business. At a time when help and support is most needed, it is indefensible for the Government to drop plans for an England horticulture strategy. It flies in the face of all the evidence around the need for food security, provenance and healthier diets. We urgently need action and not just words; we have been given just words that spell out no action.”
Steven Jacobs from the Organic Farmers and Growers Alliance (FVA member) said:
“To witness an industry declare it is in crisis, repeatedly, but then to stand back from intervening effectively smacks of incompetence, bordering on negligence. UK suppliers will continue to be damaged without progressive and coherent action.”
Notes to editors:
● The Fruit and Vegetable Alliance was set up in 2018 and is a diverse group of producer organisations and charities who are unified by a desire to get the nation eating more fruit and vegetables. Through its work, the Alliance is striving to increase UK production and consumption.
● The Landworkers’ Alliance is a grassroots union of farmers, foresters and land-based workers in the UK and is an active member of the Fruit and Vegetable Alliance. It is also part of a global movement representing 200 million small-scale farmers under the umbrella group La Via Campesina.
● The Government’s ‘Food Summit’ which is also being called the ‘Farm to Fork Summit’ will be held at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday May 16th and will be attended by supermarkets, farming unions and key policymakers.
● For follow-up queries of interviews please contact Amber Wheeler via phone on 07854428801or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Published Monday 15 May 2023
Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.
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