The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is facing criticism for allegedly not making sufficient progress on commitments made during a food security summit held at 10 Downing Street in May. Industry experts claim that there has been minimal movement, particularly concerning future support for horticulture.
Stalled Initiatives for Horticulture
The industry is concerned about the lack of a replacement for the EU Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organisation Scheme, set to end in 2026. This scheme has been instrumental in funding storage and processing facilities, developing new crop varieties, and employing specialised staff.
Concerns from British Growers Association
Jack Ward, the CEO of the British Growers Association, expressed his worries, attributing the delay to staff changes within Defra. He mentioned that the loss of institutional knowledge is hampering progress. "As we approach a general election, it's crucial to accelerate these initiatives, given their significant impact on a vital sector of the UK's agriculture," Ward said.
Questions Over Funding Allocation
Ward also questioned Defra's plans for reallocating savings from the phasing out of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). He emphasized that investments to enhance production in protected edibles would require substantial funding.
Criticism from Lea Valley Growers Association
Lee Stiles, a representative from the Lea Valley Growers Association, criticised the government's pledge to integrate glasshouses with heat sources as a recycled idea from 15 years ago. He argued that the absence of co-financing obligations makes such projects economically unviable.
Defra has refuted these allegations, stating that they are on course to fulfil all commitments made during the summit.