Sustain / Sustainable Farming Campaign / Agroecology explainer

Fruit and vegetable production

Sustain supports the work of the Fruit and Vegetable alliance, seeking to increase fruit and vegetable production and consumption, as a key way to promote public health through farming policy.

Secretary of State for Defra Michael Gove has said that: "We can design a more rational and sensitive agriculture policy which promotes environmental enhancement, supports profitable food production and contributes to a healthier society”, and we believe that driving up domestic production and consumption of fruit and vegetables in the UK should be a core part of that strategy.

There is a huge opportunity – and need – to drive up fruit and vegetable consumption and production in the UK. UK Government dietary advice, captured in the Eatwell Guide, recommends eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day (Public Health England, 2016). This equates to 15 million MT of fruit and veg. But currently we only eat 9.3 million MT of fruit and veg, of which 5.5 million MT are imported. Accepting that the UK will always need to import some produce, the opportunity for UK production amounts to an additional two million MT.

Horticulture to date has not had the support it requires to flourish. ‘Seven a day’ translates to 40% of each person's diet consisting of fruit and vegetables (Scarborough et al., 2016, Public Health England, 2016) yet currently only 1% of £3 billion in direct agriculture payments go to horticulture.

This is why UK fruit and vegetable producers, large and small scale, along with initiatives working to drive up consumption of fruit and vegetables such as Peas Please, are coming together to form a new Fruit and Vegetable Alliance. We hope this Alliance will act as a platform to develop a clear and coherent vision and plan for the sector, one based on the health needs of the population and supported by Government. The Alliance will form a new Edible Horticulture Roundtable that is also being launched with the support of Defra. 

The Fruit and Vegetable Alliance aims to:

  1. Create a united voice from the edible horticulture sector for greater support to increase UK production of fruit and vegetables
  2. Enable collaboration between the diverse range of organisations representing the UK edible horticulture sector and public health to create a strategy for helping to meet the UK fruit and vegetable requirements for eating seven a day
  3. Ensure that the newly formed Defra Round Table on Horticulture is informed by a wide range of different horticultural interests including a variety of scales, production methods and supply chain models
  4. Highlight the multiple health, environmental and economic benefits that would come about through increasing consumption and production of fruit and vegetables for both local and national markets

To date, horticulture has shown huge resilience in the face of very little external support and is a highly innovative sector that does not necessarily want subsidy. However it does require support to increase capacity and meet UK fruit and vegetable needs.  

This support could take the form of strengthened or new schemes on:

  • Research and development
  • Support for capital investment
  • Land access opportunities
  • Productivity and profitability
  • Environmental enhancement
  • Skills and labour, including support for new entrants
  • Supply chain fairness and development of shorter supply chains
  • Demand incentives and marketing

With investment in the right areas, the horticulture sector will flourish thus helping to deliver multiple public goods, especially increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. The Fruit and Vegetable Alliance is here to help in achieving these aims. We will be the go-to source of input and advice on fruit and veg production and consumption, drawn from a hugely diverse range of actors within the industry and public health community. 
What the Fruit and Vegetable Alliance will provide:

  • A credible sounding board for government proposals on strengthening the sector and improving fruit and vegetable consumption
  • The development of a realistic and practical strategy for improving fruit and vegetable production and consumption
  • A one-stop shop for a variety of views and perspectives on the barriers and opportunities in the fruit and vegetable sector
  • A mechanism for helping the government ensure that public money is used for improving public health, a public good 

Who is backing this initiative?

A group of small and large fruit and vegetable producers, producer organisations, trade associations, and health/food charities have come together to make the case collectively for supporting the production and consumption of fruit and vegetables in the UK to support the UK’s public health. Current members of the Alliance include (alphabetical order): British Growers, Bristol Food Producers, British Summer Fruits, Chris Rose Associates/Asplins PO, Community Farm, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Network UK, Food Foundation/Peas Please, Growing Communities/Better Food Traders, G's Fresh, Kindling Trust, Landworkers’ Alliance, Organic Farmers and Growers, Organic Growers Alliance, Produce World, Social Farms and Gardens, Soil Association, Sustain, Tamar Grow Local, and Tyfu Cymru – Grow Wales (Lantra).

The Alliance would welcome new members. For more information contact

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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