Increase food and farming and protect the environment, urges Defra
Published:  12 April, 2013

The UK needs to increase its food and farming industries, while protecting the environment, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said.

According to Defra, the farming, food and drink sector is responsible for 3.5m jobs and contributes to 7% of the UKís overall economy. However, it added that the sector could be more productive, particularly by focusing on increasing exports.

"We need to produce more food, not just for economic growth but also to feed the growing world population," said Defra. "We also need to get better at producing food in efficient ways. Farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers all have a part to play in reducing waste and using resources effectively."

The organisation explained that such an increase in production needed to be done while trying to prevent further pressure on the land, "including through climate change, from damaging the environment".

To increase exports and further the competitiveness of the UK food industry, Defra and UK Trade Investment (UKTI) are working with food and drinks businesses in the country. As a result, actions have been agreed and include a focus on removing trade barriers; further promoting the UK food industry at overseas events; and encouraging more UK-based companies to export more, as well as supporting those who already export.

Protecting the environment, building the future

In order to reduce strain on the land and those who farm it, Defra said it would refer to a previous major report commissioned last year, which highlighted the changes needed in Britainís food system. Conclusions from the Green Food Project report will be used to inform future policies on increasing production and exports in the UK.

A review of the way information is provided to farmers has also been produced and plans have been set to help farmers gain access to better and more straightforward advice. But Defra also pointed out the need to increase the number of young, skilled people into the agriculture sector and explained they were "working with the farming industry on a study, the Future of Farming Review, to find out how best to do this. The review group will publish an initial report in summer 2013."