To meet the UK demand for fruit and vegetables a massive scaling up of production is required. Currently UK production represents 58% of vegetables consumed and only 11% of fruit. Only 1% of Pillar 1 direct agricultural payments are offered to the horticultural sector, despite public health advice to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, and reduce meat, dairy and sugar.
The Landworkers’ Alliance propose that a dramatic increase in the number of small and medium scale horticultural enterprises producing fruit and vegetables for local and regional markets would bring benefits, including:
- Fresher produce, often bought within hours of harvest, brings greater nutritional benefit and better flavour, encouraging increased consumption.
- Diverse market gardens provide fulfilling, varied and attractive career/employment opportunities for UK workers, whereas large scale, industrial production often struggles to attract local labour.
- Spreads production risks over a much larger number of businesses in different geographic areas, insuring against problems of poor business management, spread of pests and diseases, and climatic extremes, compared with dependency on a handful of large businesses.
Author of the “A Matter of Scale” report, Rebecca Laughton says, “Contrary to popular belief, for labour intensive crops such as peas, kale, green beans and salad leaves, small-scale ecological growers often produce higher yields than industrial systems, while generating multiple environmental and social benefits. If every village, town and city was served by a network of these diverse and productive market gardens, which provide attractive opportunities for work, training and connection to the countryside, as well as fresh and tasty produce, the UK population would be healthier and happier”.
Today, the Landworkers’ Alliance outlines their proposals for how this increase in market gardens could be achieved in their new policy document, “A New Deal for Horticulture”. Seven specific measures are outlined, including:
- A coupled support scheme to incentivise domestic production and reward delivery of public goods, until the sector has strengthened sufficiently to meet a high percentage of UK demand.
- A programme to rapidly increase the number of growers, recruitment, training and access to land and start-up capital.
- A “Mixed Farms” scheme, supporting creation of horticultural units on larger farms.
- An orchard planting and maintenance scheme to encourage long term investment in fruit production.
The policy proposals are being launched on the eve of the Food Foundation’s Vegetable Summit, at which a number of leading figures in public health, agricultural policy and retail will be making pledges about measures they will take to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. The Landworkers’ Alliance supports this initiative to promote the production and consumption of UK fruit and vegetables, and believes that given an appropriate policy framework, agroecological horticulture could play a significant role in meeting the UK’s need for fresh produce.
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Press Contact: Lucy Otto: 07811 195691 and Jyoti Fernandes: 07875 849754
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