The UK Government has announced a ‘Food Strategy’ that intends to reduce the UK’s agricultural reliance on overseas production.
Harnessing agricultural technology
A strategy to direct innovation and harness pioneering technology in farming will be set out today (13 June 2022) as part of the Government’s Food Strategy, which intends to support British farmers by assisting to increase domestic production, creating new jobs, and strengthening the economy. Currently, the UK produces approximately 15% of tomatoes that are supplied domestically, but novel generation technology – such as sustainable and efficient glasshouses – has presented new opportunities for British producers, which will assist in reducing agricultural reliance on overseas production.
The plans outlined include incentives for industry and investment in research, which will support farmers in utilising this innovation to boost home-grown fruit and vegetable production, and in turn, create new job prospects across the country.
The strategy also addresses the consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on the global economy, which has caused knock-on impacts on food supplies as well as spikes in prices. In order to address these issues, the strategy outlines the importance of maintaining and boosting the UK’s food security, reducing the UK’s agricultural reliance on overseas production, and plans to strengthen the resilience of our supply chains and boost domestic production to help protect against future economic shocks and crises.
Additionally, the strategy is dedicated to maintaining the existing level of food that the UK produces domestically and boosting production in sectors that present the most significant opportunities, such as horticulture and seafood.
Establishing sustainable farming techniques
£270m will be invested across farming innovation funding programmes until 2029, with the intention of unlocking technologies to drive sustainable farming techniques and helping to increase productivity, profitability, and the agricultural sector’s long-term resilience.
Furthermore, the plan defines strategies to create a new professional body for the farming and growing industry to improve professional training and develop clear career pathways. This means that those in the sector will be equipped with the skills required to successfully manage sustainable and profitable businesses.
Safeguarding the UK’s food security
“Our food strategy sets out a blueprint for how we will back farmers, boost British industry, and help protect people against the impacts of future economic shocks by safeguarding our food security,” explained Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
“Harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food, unlocking jobs across the country and growing the economy, which in turn will ultimately help to reduce pressure on prices.”
“The food industry is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined, offering employment opportunities, apprenticeships and investment in research and development,” added George Eustice, Environment Secretary.
“The strategy we are setting out today will increase the focus on skills in the food sector, and the roles and career pathways available. In particular, we will seek to boost our horticulture industry and ensure the expertise needed to develop the sector here in the UK.”
This strategy arises from the independent review of the food system conducted by Henry Dimbleby last year (2021), which was a summarised analysis of the challenges facing the UK’s food system.
Therefore, the UK Government’s food strategy addresses these conclusions and recommendations and accepts the majority of suggestions. Furthermore, the strategy also contains additional policy initiatives to boost health, sustainability, and accessibility of diet to secure food supply, and recognise the shared global challenges of the war in Ukraine and the impact of the pandemic on the global economy.
The strategy also includes plans to:
- Consult on ambition for 50% of public sector expenditure on food procurement to be on food either produced locally or to higher standards;
- Incentivise the sector to utilise surplus heat and CO2 from industrial processes, and renewable sources of energy to increase domestic horticultural production;
- Review the planning permission process to support new developments of glasshouses;
- Launch an independent review to tackle labour shortages in the food supply chain, to look at the roles of automation, domestic labour and migration to ensure UK businesses can access the labour they require;
- Consult on how to improve on and expand animal welfare labelling so that consumers can identify when products meet or exceed our high UK animal welfare standards;
- Extend the seasonal worker’s visa route to poultry, following a successful pilot last year;
- Publish a framework for land use in England next year;
- Consult on food waste reporting for larger businesses over a certain size;
- Publish a statement setting out requirements for those wishing to access the UK market to objectively demonstrate they deliver an equivalent level of health protection to our high domestic standards;
- Explore how to make the most of innovative feed additives that can reduce methane emissions from livestock, to support sustainable farming; and
- Launch a new partnership between the public and private sectors to provide consumers with more information about the food they eat while incentivising the industry to produce healthier, more ethical, and sustainable goods.