The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, on top of the disruption brought by Covid-19, have highlighted the fragility the global food system, and the Government’s food strategy, launched yesterday (June 13), aims to address this by boosting food production at home.

This should be good news for farmers, and National Farmers Union president Minette Batters said she welcomed the Government “recognising the importance of domestic food production, maintaining our productive capacity and growing more food in this country”.

Herefordshire county adviser for the union Ali Parker said the strategy announcement “is a very clear statement of support for domestic food production from Government”.

Fruit and vegetables are among the foods which the food strategy says we should also be eating more of.

Herefordshire already grows more than half of the fruit and veg produced in the West Midlands, with “excellent land and soil types, and very sustainable farming”, according to soft fruit grower Anthony Snell, who is the NFU’s horticultural chairman for the region.

Among the foods that can be produced here, Britain grows or rears just under three-quarters of what it eats – a proportion the strategy is keen not to let slip.

“Environmentally it is better for supermarkets to reduce imports and focus on local production, which is very sustainable,” Mr Snell says.

“But farmers are under considerable financial pressure due to lack of seasonal workers, higher wages, and very high costs of fuel, electricity and fertilisers.”


Ali Capper grows apples and hops on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border, as well as wearing a number of industry hats, including chair of the NFU horticulture and potatoes board and of promotional group British Apples & Pears (BAP).

While also welcoming the strategy, she says the biggest limiting factor for UK growers is having enough workers – always a key requirement in this labour-intensive industry.

“The Government will need to change its immigration strategy to enable fruit and veg growers to grow more produce,” she says.

With this in place, British top fruit growers could raise their share of fruit sold in UK supermarkets from the current 40 per cent, to 60 or even 70 per cent, BAP argues.

Technically, this is already possible, thanks to advances in storage technology which can ensure fresh British apples year-round – but this takes energy, Ms Capper points out.

“We are also calling on the Government to cap energy prices for food production businesses.”

Without swift action by the Government to back up its strategy aims, “business confidence could wane, leading to contraction of the sector rather than expansion”, she warns.

But while Herefordshire is home to many fresh produce growers, it has yet to go down the route of “industrial horticulture”, which government strategy says should now “expand significantly”.

A new generation of sustainable multi-acre glasshouses, along with fully enclosed vertical farms, could boost the UK’s low self-sufficiency in crops like cucumbers and tomatoes, while also “future-proofing” production and create skilled jobs, it says.