Farmers criticise Coffey for India food ‘promotion’ video

Defra secretary Therese Coffey is under fire from farmers for promoting the sustainability of India’s fresh produce in a video filmed at one of its markets, as a new a report estimates that only 54% of food eaten in the UK is produced domestically.

Ms Coffey, who was in Chennai for the G20 Environment and Climate Sustainability Ministers’ Meeting, is filmed visiting the Koyambedu Food Market, one of the largest in Asia.

“I’m learning about the fresh produce that makes the vibrant cuisine here in Tamil Nadu so special and sustainable,” she says.

See also: Opinion: Defra secretary showed contempt for farming

The Defra video has provoked a strong reaction on Twitter.

Jane Jordan, who is based in East Anglia, posted: “Pity she doesn’t understand UK food security and that UK can feed itself better and stop adding pressure to global food economies by sourcing cheap so other less fortunate nations can’t afford to feed their citizens.”

In another post, farmer “HeneryT” issued an invitation to the minister. “It would be rather lovely if I felt you were as interested in UK produce, its world leading quality, sustainability and traceability… You’re more than welcome to come to see what we do here in Shropshire… Not holding my breath.”

Last week, a report published by the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee urged the government to commit to a “sea change” in its attitude towards food security, which now stands at 54%.

Reacting to Ms Coffey’s visit to India, farmer Joe Stanley said he did not object to government ministers “flying off around the world”, but it was “galling’’ to hear her talk about food security when, in his words, “the UK has no interest in food security and no plan for food security”.

“They seem to be completely ignoring it here in the UK,” he said.

Negotiations for a free trade agreement between the UK and India formally kicked off in January 2022, with Round 11 now under way.

As India is a major global sugar producer, there is concern about the impact this will have on UK sugar beet growers.

Mr Stanley said UK sugar production was the most environmentally sustainable in the world, with just 200g of waste per tonne and the food miles between field and processor averaging just 28.

“In sugar production, in pork production, in horticulture production especially, production is down by 20% compared to where it was a couple of years ago,” he said.

“Government ministers seem to fly around the world, especially to developing countries, and talk about the importance of food security while completely ignoring it here in the UK.”

A Defra spokesperson said Ms Coffey had been in India to represent the UK’s interests at the G20 Environment Minister’s meeting.

“The countries in attendance represent 60% of the world’s agricultural land and topics of discussion included shared learning on sustainable farming, biodiversity and food security, ” the spokesperson said, adding that the UK was “committed” to backing UK farmers to enable economic growth, protection of nature and food security.

“This is why we have embarked on our next steps to deliver this by committing to maintain the £2.4bn annual farming budget and investing in productivity and innovation on farms.”

Europe’s greening agenda ‘risks global tension’, UN expert warns

Risking Europe’s food production capacity with a “greening” agenda could cause global tension if it cannot meet its own supply needs and instead competes with other nations for imports, a UN expert warns.

The EU Commission’s Green Deal, which seeks to dedicate a quarter of agricultural land to organic farming and cut fertiliser and pesticide use, will inevitably decrease agricultural productivity.

But David Laborde, director of the agri-food economics division at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, warned that the less food Europe produced, the less it would export, and the “more it will demand on global markets”.

“This can increase tension,” he said.

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