A new generation of technology will aid Britain in consuming more domestically produced products and relying less on overseas production. This plan was announced by the Government’s Food Strategy which will aim to help the nation’s farmers to increase their production, as well as to spread jobs and boost the UK economy.
Despite coming under fire for its credibility as a long-term scheme, this long-awaited Food Strategy has pledged to “back farmers” to increase self-sufficiency as well as to help guard the country against future economic shocks.
Addressing our Food Industry
The food and drink sector is the UK’s largest manufacturing industry and is thus critical to the government’s levelling-up agenda. The agri-food sector creates wealth and employment in every region of the nation.
In 2018, the government asked Henry Dimbleby (co-founder of the restaurant chain Leon) to carry out a comprehensive review of our food system – ‘the independent review’. The independent review provided an analysis of the challenges faced by the nation due to our current food systems. Dimbleby’s review focused on addressing two major factors – the ‘Junk Food Cycle’, and the ‘Invisibility of Nature’.
In response to this evaluation, the Government’s Food Strategy has included policies to boost the health, sustainability, accessibility of diet and security of our food supply. These long-term measures have been made to support a food strategy that will be resilient, sustainable and affordable to all.
Of course, such measures have been made in difficult times. The significant increase in food prices has been exacerbated by energy costs in addition to the on-going events in Ukraine and remains a major challenge looming over people across the country. The government must commit to a sustainable, long-term approach to tackling poverty and supporting those on lower incomes. Their latest strategy could be viewed as a major step in this journey.
But has the Food Strategy been well received so far? Henry Dimbleby has stated that only around half of his recommendations had been taken on, and it has been described by other critics as “half-baked”. For example, the government ignored the salt and sugar tax suggested in the independent review last year. Nonetheless, the pledge to “back farmers” has been welcomed by the National Farmers’ Union and Soil Association.
Despite the backlash, Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted, “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.”
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A Strategy Searching for Answers
And so, in their latest endeavours to tackle the challenges faced by the food industry, the UK government has turned to tech to help increase domestic production. This will aid the nation’s food system to become more affordable and sustainable, thus tackling current issues within the industry.
Currently, the UK only produces 15% of tomatoes supplied domestically, but the upgraded generation of technology has opened up new opportunities for British producers. For example, introducing more sustainable and efficient glasshouses will help to reduce the UK’s reliance on overseas food production.
As part of the Food Strategy, the government will also be investing £270 million across farming innovation funding programmes until 2029. This investment will go towards unlocking new technologies that will boost sustainable farming techniques in order to help with the sector’s long-term resilience.
But beyond investment in research, the government’s strategy will incorporate incentives for the industry to create new job opportunities across the country. The strategy will set out plans to create a new professional body for the farming and growing industry. This will enhance professional training and develop clear career pathways, equipping people with the skills needed to run businesses that are both profitable and sustainable.
As explained by 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 Government’s Food Strategy also includes plans to boost envionmental food sustainability by, for example, using surplus heat and CO2 from industrial processes and renewable sources of energy to increase domestic horticultural production.
A new partnership between the public and private sectors will also provide consumers with more information about the food they eat while incentivising the industry to produce healthier, more sustainable goods. The remaining components of the Government’s Food Strategy can be found at www.gov.uk.