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We have been working with the Landworkers' Alliance on their Horticulture Renewal Programme, a series of practical proposals to dramatically increase local fruit and vegetable production following Brexit. The programme was launched this week.
It includes case studies - from GC among others - to show that the proposals can and do work in the real world to bring tangible, viable and effective progress. They simply need adequate investment to roll them out to a wider audience. We hope the government and Defra will take note.
To meet the UK demand for fruit and vegetables, a massive scaling up of production is required. If everyone in Britain were to eat the “Seven a day” now recommended by Public Health England, we would need an additional 2.4 million tonnes of fresh produce, equivalent to a 66% growth in UK production. The Eatwell Guide recommends that 40% of each person's diet consists of fruit and vegetables, yet currently only 1% of the £3 billion agriculture budget is spent on horticulture. Over the last 30 years the area planted to vegetables in the UK has decreased by 26% (Defra, 2014, Agriculture in the UK).
Defra's recently released consultation paper on post-Brexit Agriculture is entitled, “Health and Harmony: The future for food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit”. Rebecca Laughton of the LWA Horticulture Campaign says: “If Defra is serious about bringing health into the Post-Brexit agricultural policy, it is essential that they adopt a proactive approach to horticultural regeneration, which addresses the challenges currently faced by UK horticulture and substantially increases the proportion of the agriculture budget focused on fruit and vegetable production.”
Small-scale organic producers can be highly productive while integrating many environmental benefits such as soil care, biodiversity increase and resilience to pests and diseases without being reliant on pesticides.There are social benefits too: the organic sector is attracting a new generation of highly motivated, innovative and entrepreneurial UK growers due to the meaningful, convivial and varied nature of its work. Further expansion, however, is limited by factors such as inadequate training opportunities, lack of secure access to land and investment capital and the imbalance between living costs and the income possible from horticultural production.
A New Deal for Horticulture: Ideas for a horticulture renewal programme accompanies the LWA policy proposals launched last autumn, and sets out a vision for UK horticulture and a renewal programme including recruitment, training, start-up schemes, production and distribution. The document outlines how the programme meets many of the objectives set out in Defra's “Health and Harmony”. It also contains six case studies illustrating how many of the proposed ideas are already in operation and simply need adequate investment to roll them out to a wider audience.