Plant farming

It is aiming for 85% of the produce grown in the UK to be certified within the next five years

Sustainable farming organisation Leaf (Linking Environment And Farming) has set a new target to almost double the amount of UK grown fruit & veg produced by Leaf Marque-certified businesses, from 45% to 85%, by 2026.

Leaf said it would work with farmers, retailers and brands across the food supply chain to meet the target.

The announcement comes a month after Tesco signed up to the assurance scheme – which requires farms to take a holistic approach to sustainable farming – and includes measures such as the increased implementation of regenerative practices, improved soil management, enriched wildlife diversity goals, and a reduced carbon footprint.

Tesco said all its UK growers must be certified by the end of 2022. It would then begin the process of certifying its global supply base from 2023 with the aim of completing the entire transformation by 2025.

Earlier this month, PepsiCo announced plans for its 300-plus UK-based Quaker Oats farmers to achieve Leaf certification over the next two years and, for the past 14 years, all Waitrose’s UK-grown produce has been certified in this way.

“With global food demand set to double by 2050, and only nine harvests before the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the need to protect, sustainably manage and restore the Earth’s resources whilst producing food is essential,” said Leaf CEO Caroline Drummond.

Currently, 39% of the 524 Leaf Marque farmers in Britain use a carbon footprint tool, 42% are recording soil organic matter and 67% use one or more types of renewable energy generation on-farm. A further 83% manage reservoirs for water quality, safety and wildlife and 84% regularly monitor animal welfare indicators.

“Scaling up the reach and impact of all our work will require us to develop deeper, extended business partnerships and new business models,” Drummond added.

“Our pledge to drive a more climate-positive fresh produce sector in the UK, evidenced through Leaf Marque, feeds into our wider 10-year strategy to raise the ‘sustainability bar’ across all farming sectors.

“There will be challenges ahead but as we look beyond the COP26 summit, the leadership being shown by Waitrose, Tesco and Quaker Oats UK signals a hugely transformative moment for the health of our planet.”