Government 'turned its back on British farming', say Tories

The Labour Government has been accused of turning its back on British fruit and vegetable producers as Conservative Party research has revealed the fruit and vegetable trade deficit has grown by 55 per cent to £3.5bn in the past 10 years.

Other alarming findings include a decline in planted land for vegetables of 24 per cent and a 14 per cent decline in land for fruit, while self- sufficiency in vegetables fell from 71.5 per cent in 1997 to 59.6 per cent in 2007. According to the Conservative Party findings, imports of vegetables have risen by 516,000 tonnes and fruit imports by 974,000 tonnes, which together are worth an extra £1.3bn.

The Conservatives are also disappointed by Labour's failure to use public procurement to back British growers. The annual public-sector food budget is £2bn, yet Defra statistics show that only 23 per cent of legumes, 25 per cent of soft fruit and five per cent of orchard fruit used by the NHS come from British farms, while only 40 per cent of root vegetables and onions are home produced.

Shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Peter Ainsworth said: "At a time of rising food prices we should be increasing our food security, not becoming more reliant on imports.

"Many families want to buy British to support our farmers, eat seasonal produce and reduce food miles, but the Government has turned its back on British farming, with extra regulation and bureaucracy. Ministers should cut red tape and use the £2bn public food budget to buy home-grown food. Why does only five per cent of orchard fruit in the NHS come from British farms?"


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