The UK government has launched a consultation on new labelling proposals, focusing on the transparency of the origin and production methods of fresh produce.
Announced by Environment Secretary Steve Barclay at the Oxford Farming Conference, the initiative aims to provide clearer information to consumers about the origins of fresh produce, particularly highlighting when imported products fall short of UK welfare standards.
Barclay stated that the proposals are part of an effort to ensure food produced to the highest standards is consistently labelled, underscoring the need for swift action in the consultation process.
He stated, “British farmers take pride in producing food that meets, and often exceeds, our world-leading animal welfare and environmental standards. Consumers want to buy this top-quality food, but too often products produced to lower standards overseas aren’t clearly labelled to differentiate them. This is why I am proud to announce we will consult on clearer food labelling so we can tackle the unfairness created by misleading labelling and protect farmers and consumers.”
The proposals also include discussions with retailers to enhance the promotion of British produce, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, both in-store and online. The idea of a 'Buy British Button' for online shopping platforms is being considered to help consumers easily identify British produce.
The announcement also included Barclay's reference to the "biggest upgrade to the government’s farming schemes since the UK left the EU". This includes a 10% increase in the average value of agreements in the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship scheme, driven by increased payment rates.
About 50 new actions that farmers can be compensated for were also announced, covering a range of farm businesses and including initiatives for agroforestry and advanced agricultural technology.
In addition, Barclay mentioned the government's commitment of over £168 million in grant funding to farmers in 2023 to support innovation and technology in the farming sector. This includes a recent allocation of £45 million for the development of robotic and automatic equipment and research & development.
The emphasis on adopting current market-available technologies was highlighted by Barclay, who expressed a preference for immediate technological solutions over waiting for future developments.