Government launches grow-your-own task force

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 21 Oct 2009 10:29, Last updated: 2009-10-21
Drive to increase consumer demand in home-grown produce

A new Task Force will help England to grow and eat more fruit and vegetables and improve the nation’s health, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has announced.

Comprising growers, retailers, consumers and agricultural researchers, the Fruit and Vegetables Task Force will develop an action plan to increase the production and consumption of fruit and vegetables in this country.

Cabinet Minister Benn said that the new group needed to look at ways to get people growing their own fruit and vegetables, as well as ways to support England’s commercial growers – and to get people choosing local fruit and veg, particularly when it’s in season.

Consumer demand also needs to increase, as most people still do not eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. In particular the group will focus on young people and low-income families, who are less likely to eat recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.

Mr Benn added that he wants English growers to have the opportunity to produce as much as they could to meet consumer demand.

In 2008, domestic production of fruit and vegetables was 37 percent of demand. The UK produces 11 percent of the fresh fruit we consume, which has increased in the last five years, and 58 percent of fresh vegetables, down from 63 percent five years ago.

Compared to five years ago, more of the apples we eat are grown in the UK, and nearly 13 percent more strawberries eaten in Britain are grown here. However, the proportion of pears and plums consumed that were grown here have declined.

Most cabbages and carrots eaten in the UK are also grown here, but UK production of tomatoes has declined over the last decade, meaning a greater proportion of the tomatoes we consume are

Current barriers to production include developing clear career paths to attract young people to the industry, the availability of seasonal workers, volatile energy costs and the effects of climate change including the availability and cost of water.

Mr Benn said: “If we grow and eat more fruit and vegetables here – in our greenhouses, in our orchards, in our fields, our allotments and in our own back gardens – it will be good for our health, our farming community, and our landscape.

“There is a gap at the moment, between what we consume and what we grow here, but there’s no reason why we can’t grow more here. And the main thing we can do to encourage this is to choose, and eat, British produce.

“We need make sure our farmers can compete successfully with imports, are resilient to the effects of climate change, and that we’re getting fresh talent into the industry so that we can continue to grow world-class fruit and veg.”

Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham said: "Getting Britain growing more fruit and veg isn't just good news for our farmers - eating it is the tastiest way for the rest of us to maintain a healthy lifestyle too.

"We know the demand is there - the latest Health Survey for England results showed an increase in the number of people eating fruit and veg and our '5 A Day' campaign is supporting families to get even more fruit and veg in their diets."

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