The UK government wants to maintain current levels of domestic food production into the future, according to a new policy document.

The government’s food strategy states that the UK produces 60% of all the food it consumes, but this rises to 74% when only looking at the foods which can be grown or reared in the UK.

“That has been broadly stable for the past 20 years and in this food strategy we commit to keep it at broadly the same level in future,” the document reads.

The strategy, which was published on Monday, states that the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine “are reminders of the crucial importance of UK food producers to our national resilience”.

Although the strategy is aimed at England, it contains a notable change in tone from the government as there is a much stronger focus on the role farmers play as food producers, rather than environmental managers.

Future policy

“Our future agriculture policy will seek to financially reward sustainable farming practices, make space for nature within the farmed landscape, and help farmers reduce their costs,” the strategy reads.

The document follows on from an independent review by restaurant chain owner Henry Dimbleby. In his review, Dimbleby recommended national meat consumption reduces by 30% by 2032, but this was not included in the final strategy by the government.

The document includes commitments for “sustainably boosting production” in the horticulture sector. Its publication was followed by an announcement that 40,000 visas will be available for seasonal migrant workers to come to the UK this year, up from 30,000 visas in 2021.

Vague intentions

Labour MP Jim McMahon described the government’s food strategy as “a statement of vague intentions” which contains “no support for British farmers”.

However, there was a broadly positive reaction from farmer organisations, with the UFU welcoming the strategy’s focus on local food production.

“Now we need to make sure that Government’s intentions turn into concrete proposals to tackle the major issues facing our country,” said UFU president David Brown.