Charity says action is needed in the wake of House of Lords horticulture report

The Soil Association has called for the government to double UK fruit and veg production “through nature-friendly farming” after the House of Lords dubbed the future of the horticulture sector as “bleak”.

More support is needed for UK production, the Soil Association claims

More support is needed for UK production, the Soil Association claims

The Lords’ warning was issued in a report published this week by the cross-party House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee.

Advice from the Soil Association for more research into sustainable farming practices was also included in the report, after the charity submitted evidence in parliament as part of the inquiry, it noted.

Calling for a “cross-departmental horticulture strategy”, the report said: “The Soil Association called for better research and innovation funding to support a transition to more sustainable farming practices, including using fewer chemicals. The Soil Association’s Ben Raskin told us that ‘far too much of our R&D budget goes into high-tech robotic solutions… and not enough into enabling farmers to do more on the ground’.”

In response to the report, Soil Association head of farming policy Gareth Morgan said: “The declaration by the House of Lords that the future of horticulture looks ‘bleak’ is concerning but not a shock given the struggles our farmers and growers are facing. Fruit and veg are not being prioritised enough in farming or diet-related government policy. Ministers must listen to the warnings from the lords and from all of us who contributed to this inquiry.

“Too few people can access healthy food, and rising fuel and electricity costs, labour shortages and low profits mean many growers are considering throwing in the towel. But these problems are solvable - government urgently needs to get the promised horticulture strategy back off the scrap heap.

“We want to see UK fruit and veg production doubled – through agroecological, nature-friendly methods – to support British growers and healthy diets.”

The Soil Association has called for manifesto commitments from all political parties to:

  • Double investment in nature-friendly farming across the UK – making sustainable farming more widespread and profitable by delivering economies of scale.
  • Produce an ambitious horticulture strategy while supporting British fruit and vegetable production and consumption.
  • Double British fruit and vegetable production and consumption to support healthy diets, through nature-friendly farming.
  • Ensure that at least half of food in schools and hospitals is British, local, and sustainable, including organic, and improve the quality of the school fruit and veg scheme.
  • Ensure food retail pricing – from farm gate to supermarket shelf – that provides a fair return for farmers.
  • Intervene in supply chains so that retailers take greater responsibility and provide contracts that incentivise farmers who look after the environment across their entire farms and business, accounting for impacts on wildlife and soil as well as carbon.
  • Invest in local food partnerships that work to tackle food insecurity, supply chain disruption and inequity, and the climate and nature emergency, following the example of Sustainable Food Places.