£80m scheme 'won't support' growers in time - Fruit & Vine

£80m scheme ‘won’t support’ growers in time

Critics say government funding for growers doesn’t go far enough to support those hit by extreme weather and rising costs.

Apples and pears grown in the UK
Image credit: Unsplash

New funding for growers was announced by the government at the Farm to Fork summit this week.

Initially welcomed by growers, others are now fearful about the £80m government scheme. Critics say it does not go far enough to support farmers and growers hit by extreme weather and rising costs.

Too little too late?

Tom Bradshaw, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said he did not think the measures announced would see the UK’s food security improve in the short term.

Speaking after the Farm to fork summit, he said: “We’re not going to be in a better position in 12 months time. [This is] because we know the very real challenges that are going on right across the country.”

The NFU warns many of its members fear they’ll go bankrupt before they benefit from any extra funding.

Mr Bradshaw said the government needed to take ‘critical steps’ to put farming back onto a much firmer footing.

He added: “I think that what is missing is that today is more about the strategic long-term. It’s not about putting the building blocks in place that rebuild that confidence immediately.”

Government: UK reliant on overseas growers

The government warned the UK must reduce it’s reliance on oversees fruit and veg, telling farmers to grow more.

A new national food security index, found just 17% of fruit, and 55% of vegetables consumed in the UK are actually grown here.

The most recent statistics for the horticulture industry, show that in 2022 the UK produced around 2.4m tonnes of vegetables and 652,000 tonnes of fruit, with a value of £1.8bn and £1bn respectively.

In comparison, it imported £2.7bn worth of vegetables, and £3.9bn worth of fruit.

Damning weather

Farmers of all types, across the UK, are still struggling with the impacts of the recent wet weather.

Mr Bradshaw continued: “We cannot forget that our members have experienced the wettest eighteen months since 1836. Many are facing an acute short-term crisis.

“The NFU’s recent confidence survey revealed just how tough it is out there currently.

“The reality is some farmers and growers believe they may not survive long enough to benefit from today’s [14th May 2024] announcements.”

Hope for the future

Mr Bradshaw continued: “While we’re pleased to see the Prime Minister and Defra saying UK food security is vital to our national security, we need actions in the short-term that underpin that statement, in order to rebuild confidence and resilience so farming businesses can continue producing food.

“We’ll continue to engage with ministers on the detail needed for the immediate relief our farm businesses require and believe core standards for food imports also need to be part of the long-term offer.”

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