Investment, Innovation to Unlock Production

UK - A new report setting out how British farming can produce more food while impacting less on the environment has been described as a turning point.
calendar icon 10 July 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

The Green Food Project report, which brought together farming and industry organisations together with government, consumers and environmental bodies was set up following the publication of last June’s Natural Environment White paper to investigate how the goals of increasing production and improving the environment could be achieved.

Launched today (10 July) at the Great Yorkshire Show, the initial report of the Green Food Project sets out the first steps on the road to: using less energy and water in food production; increasing crop yields; introducing more innovative technology; improving conservation management; and boosting numbers of talented, entrepreneurial young people making careers in the food industry.

Farming Minister Jim Paice said: “With our increasingly hungry world every country must play its part to produce more food and improve the environment. Britain already punches above its weight, but we’re a small island with limited space, so we’ve got to show leadership and play to our strengths more efficiently.

“We’re not talking about setting Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together. Whether it means embracing new farming technology or people wasting less, we’ve got to become more sustainable.”

The Green Food Project examined how production and consumption could change in the future in five different sectors – wheat, dairy, bread, curry, and geographical areas. On bread, for example, experts suggested that significant amounts of energy could be saved if new more energy efficient toasters are invented. Or on curry, experts suggested that Britain’s farmers could grow more herbs and spices as the UK’s climate changes, or chickpeas for roti-bread flour.

Mr Paice added: “There are already many examples of cutting edge innovations in all sectors, but these are the exception rather than the rule. We are talking about the need for a culture change across the entire food chain and this is the first step in a long-term plan to make that happen.”

National Farmers' Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall who sat on the Steering Group, said:“Last year we made a call at our annual conference for a national Food Plan – a strategy across government and industry that moves us beyond the clichés and starts to map out who needs to do what, where and when. The Green Food Project is certainly a major step forward to achieving this. It’s not quite the end of the journey but it is a significant body of work that identifies the key issues that will need to be addressed by government, industry and other stakeholders.

“We now have some clear actions to move forward with. In particular, the report identifies some of the steps that need to be taken by the science community, government and farmers in delivering more user-inspired, applied research. It pushes us to think smarter about knowledge exchange. Stimulating investment is critical if Defra is to consider how it can better support a more competitive, resilient industry. A step that government could take quickly is to overhaul the capital allowances to create more generous incentives for farmers to invest in new buildings, water lagoons and slurry stores.

“But it’s not just about government; all members of the Green Food Project will be taking responsibility for actions. For our part, we are committing to work more closely on skills, new entrants, competitiveness and environmental delivery.

“What has been really encouraging through this process is how we all, officials, farm organisations and environmental groups have been able to collaborate constructively to address the challenges of increasing production and improving the environment.”

Conclusions from the report can be read here.

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