Government accused of watering down agri-food strategy

A national food strategy that was meant to pave the way for public procurement of British food has been watered down, leaving the UK with no serious agri-food strategy.

Wrapping up a political debate at the NFU conference, Minette Batters, deputy president of the NFU, said the “foundations of British farming” were “fragile”, yet the government had left the country and industry without a proper strategy.

The ‘Great British Food Plan’ was originally drawn up in the wake of the successful food procurement strategy at the London Olympics. It aimed to add visibility to the supply chain for the catering sector, encouraging public procurement of more British food.

But this had been watered down to what is now called the Procurement Plan with no concrete plan for delivery and the possible addition of EU certified products, said Ms Batters.

“We started with the Great British Food Plan and now we’ve lost the ‘great’ and the ‘British’.

“Other countries are ahead of us because [their farming industry] is shoulder to shoulder with their government – we are not.”
Turning to the panel of politicians, including farming minister George Eustice, Ms Batters said:

“I know you are genuine people…but we are reliant on you to make the argument [for farming at government level].”
She urged Mr Eustice to stick to commitments originally drawn up.