The Council of Food Policy Advisers has told the Government that it should set up a fruit and vegetable strategy to help find realistic and sustainable ways of increasing domestic fruit and vegetable production and consumption.
Its recommendation is one of three key points published last week in the council's first report.
Other key points were the need to define an environmentally sustainable healthy diet to better educate the public and for the Government to set an example through public procurement, ensuring hospital meals, for example, are made from healthy, locally sourced food.
The report states that "a drive for increased consumption (of fruit and vegetables) provides a timely opportunity to assess where there are realistic and sustainable opportunities to increase UK production.
"A framework for developing an enhanced UK fresh produce strategy is needed." It adds: "Identifying viable opportunities for increasing domestic production is a complex issue; to be successful, it will require a clear market and consumer demand, clarity on the sustainability benefits, expertise and investment by producers and, where appropriate, R&D support.
"However, there are good examples where UK growers have invested in systems that deliver good-quality, good-value products while also delivering sustainability benefits in areas such as climate change and water usage."
Advisory council chairman Dame Suzi Leather said: "This report sets out some of the steps we believe will be helpful in securing our food supply in a changing world."
The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), which took part in a round-table discussion held by the council earlier this year, is supporting the calls from the council.
FPC chief executive Nigel Jenney said: "We are keen to be involved in the Government's fruit and vegetable task force and to help drive forward this important agenda.
"UK growers have a significant opportunity to increase the sustainable production of indigenous crops suited to our climate. We believe Defra should identify those crops with greater production potential than is achieved currently and ensure the sector has the necessary tools to maximise this potential."
The Council of Food Policy Advisers was set up last October by secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs Hilary Benn.
The council's suggestions included the following:
- Highlight the benefits of local production and seasonal products to consumers at the point of sale to increase and build on this market demand
- Assess and consider the availability of labour and certain areas of regulation that may impact on the potential for increasing production
- Encourage new entrants to the industry by raising the profile in the education system
- Ensure that the supply chain is set up so there is opportunity for adequate returns to efficient primary producers
- Make sure that initiatives to increase production are realistic and sustainable, and targeted on products where there is consumer interest and demand
- Emphasise the need for greater R&D support - in particular, innovation and knowledge transfer.
Subscribe to Horticulture Week for more news, more in-depth features and more technical and market info.