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‘Buy British’ filters and better online labelling urged to support UK food

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

“Buy British” filters and clearer country of origin labelling could be introduced for online grocery shopping to support the UK’s farming industry, it has been suggested.

Farmers are also urging the Government to commit to not let Britain’s self-sufficiency in food production slip below its current level of 60%, and to back more British food in public sector catering such as schools and hospitals.

The National Farmers’ Union has released a report which calls on the Government to complete a comprehensive report on UK food security later this year – the first for more than a decade.

It also sets out how it believes the UK can reduce its reliance on imported food by harnessing the opportunities to increase home-grown produce such as beans and peas for people and animal feed, and boost export markets for produce such as lamb.

And it highlights action farmers are taking to make farming climate-friendly and sustainable, from protecting soils to rearing livestock on pastures and using new breeding and technology.

One of the suggestions in the report is clearer, more accurate labelling on where groceries sold online are coming from, while another step could be the introduction of a “Buy British” button or filter to allow shoppers to select British products, it says.

It also calls for the Government to put UK-produced food at the heart of public procurement policy, with assurances that the public sector does not provide a back door to imports not produced to British standards.

Ministers should back an ambitious marketing strategy abroad for “Brand Britain” and deliver domestic policies and investment so farmers can continue to produce world-leading food, while delivering for the environment, economy and climate, the report urges.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “British farmers produce some of the best food in the world.

“Not only is it delicious and nutritious, but it’s produced to incredibly high environmental, animal welfare, traceability, and food safety standards – something not every country is able to say.

“Yet, over the past few years, not enough importance has been placed on Britain’s food production.

“This has been all too clear as the country has watched its self-sufficiency drop from as high as 78% in the mid-80s to its current level of just 60%.

“As an island nation which is very well suited for quality food production, it would be a mistake to let that happen again and become even more reliant on the rest of the world to feed us.”

Ms Batters said delivering a comprehensive report into food security and taking action in response would show the Government is serious about boosting sustainable food production in Britain, reducing the reliance on imports which often fall below UK standards of production.

“British farmers could increase the industry’s economic contribution and provide more nutritious, affordable, climate-friendly British food for UK shoppers and people across the world, all while bolstering domestic and global food security,” she suggested.

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