Time for a new image of UK food

What is the UK’s national dish? According to a recent survey, it’s chicken tikka massala, followed closely by fish and chips.

True or not, it fits with the common perception that the UK has one of the worst cuisines in Europe and our food is a national embarrassment.

Of course that’s rubbish, and the country enjoys a wealth of top-quality produce. But in the fickle food business, it’s all about perception and the agri-food industry has not done a great job in marketing itself.

In the new era, that will have to change. So the publication of a new report by the Tenant Farmers’ Association and the National Beef Association is timely.

The report pulls no punches, criticising all stakeholders for failing to do more. DEFRA is targeted for its over-zealous application of EU state aid rules, which prevents the promotion of British food.

The levy bodies are criticised for pandering to food processors, who have limited interest in marketing domestic produce.

The supermarkets, too, are attacked for being margin-driven, while farmers are criticised for being volume- rather than customer-focused.

But, like any good study, the report also offers solutions. Some of these are essential, such as introducing clear country of origin labelling and boosting government spending.

Others are desirable, such as holding an annual food fair in London and launching a national poster campaign.

And then there are the aspirational, such as relaxing EU state aid rules and limiting the power of supermarkets.

But if only half the 44 specific recommendations are acted upon, it will help redress the biased image some have of British food and farming.