Government backs calls to help customers buy British when they shop online

Defra secretary Thérèse Coffey has today (13 September) announced a package of measures designed to help consumers ’buy British’ and provide farmers with the cashflow they need to invest in their businesses.

Building on a commitment to keep producing 60 per cent of the food consumed in the UK, and providing a boost to the UK’s £127 billion food and farming sector, Coffey today backed calls for industry-led action to signpost customers to ‘buy British’ when they shop online and said government will support campaigns to endorse the taste and quality of home-grown meat and dairy products.

Coffey also confirmed that farmers producing sustainable British food under government environmental land management schemes will be able to use these schemes to help meet public procurement standards, benefiting British farmers and allowing the public sector to benefit from more British food.

She revealed that, to ensure British produce is enjoyed both at home and around the world, the government has started the recruitment drive to appoint five extra agri-food attachés to unlock new trading markets, adding a further boost to the UK’s food and drink exports which bring £24 billion to the British economy.

In a statement today, the food and farming secretary said: ”This government will always back British farmers who produce some of the highest quality food in the world, contribute billions to our economy, and are the custodians of our countryside.

”Today’s announcements are acting on commitments made at the Farm to Fork Summit and driving forward our new farming schemes to deliver a profitable and sustainable food and farming sector that delivers for people and our planet now and into the future.”

The government’s flexible and accessible farming schemes are supporting farmers to produce high-quality food while delivering for the environment, Coffey added. An increasing number of farmers are taking part in government environmental land management schemes, with 32,000 Countryside Stewardship agreements successfully in place across England for 2023 - a 94 per cent increase in since 2020 - and over 6,000 applications already received this year, she said.

The new and improved Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 – which has 23 actions on offer for farmers - is currently accepting expressions of interest and will start accepting applications from 18 September.

”Today, in recognition of the challenges faced with inflation and rising input costs, we are confirming that farmers who have a live Sustainable Farming Incentive 2023 (SFI) agreement before the end of the year, will receive an accelerated payment in the first month of their agreement, helping with cashflow and ensuring SFI works for farm businesses,” Coffey added.

Commenting on the government’s latest package of measures, Defra farming minister Mark Spencer said: ”I continue to do all I can to support British farmers and growers and our flexible new farming schemes and continued investment in technology and automation are already delivering positive outcomes for domestic food production and the environment.

”With another record year for Countryside Stewardship, it’s great to see so many farmers signing up and getting involved. I will continue to work closely with the sector to take on board feedback to ensure our schemes work in the best possible way so farmers can run profitable and sustainable businesses into the future.”

Coffey’s announcement comes as the government continues to invest in innovation and automation to increase productivity, with £30 million announced today for farmers to invest in automated, robotic and solar technologies.

Later this year, farmers will be able to bid for a share of £15 million to install solar equipment which, alongside a further £15 million to invest in automation and robotics, will help them reduce fossil fuel use, improve their energy resilience and accelerate progress towards net zero.