The UK Fruit & Vegetable Alliance has resigned from the government’s Edible Horticulture Roundtable following the scrapping of the development of a proposed Defra horticulture strategy.
Defra minister Mark Spencer confirmed last week that plans to develop a new horticulture strategy for England had been scrapped in January. The decision came without public consultation or communication to stakeholders including the FVA, the alliance said.
In its resignation, the alliance said the strategy was “one of the most positive aspects of the government food strategy”. However, “without the ambition to create a horticulture strategy for England, we have been led to question the Fruit & Vegetable Alliance’s ongoing participation in the Edible Horticulture Roundtable”.
The alliance said the creation of a horticulture strategy was now needed more than ever “as cost price increases and unfair trading practices in the retail sector are leading to growers reducing their acreage of vegetables and fruit”.
“To rely on imports from countries like Spain, Kenya and Morocco is far too risky in the face of climate change and political instability, as illustrated by the shortages of imported salad vegetables this February and March,” it added.
According to the government’s public health recommendations, vegetables and fruit should make up 40% of our diets by weight, however, edible horticulture receives the least amount of government money, food alliance Sustain said.
“Let’s be clear: the UK government is putting the nation’s food security and health at risk by a fundamental lack of strategic thinking,” said Dr Amber Wheeler, secretary of FVA. “Next time there are empty veg shelves there will be no other place to point the finger than at the government.”
This resignation comes as prime minister Rishi Sunak prepares to hold his food security summit tomorrow, which is expected to be dominated by discussions on how to get a grip on food inflation.