Boris Johnson warned crops are being wasted due to a worker 'crisis'

Farmers’ leader warns Boris Johnson entire unpicked crops of tomatoes and lettuces are being ‘ploughed back into fields’ due to a worker ‘crisis’ on UK farms as PM unveils plans to boost food security by growing veg in greenhouses as big as the O2

  • PM will today unveil plans to boost farmers and encourage Britons to buy local 
  • Includes growing tomatoes in greenhouses as large as the Millennium Dome 
  • But NFU head Minette Batters warned food is routinely going to waste across UK
  • ‘Absolute crisis of staffing’ means crops being ploughed back into land unpicked

Boris Johnson was warned crops are being wasted on British farms due to a worker crisis today as he prepares to launch plans to boost domestic production.

The Prime Minister will today unveil plans to boost farmers and encourage Britons to buy local by supercharging the production of home-grown fruit and vegetables.

Food security will be at the heart of Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit strategy and will include growing tomatoes in greenhouses as large as the Millennium Dome, now known as The O2.

But while the PM visited Cornwall to see crops being grown, the head of the National Farmers’ Union warned good food is routinely going to waste across the country due to a shortage of workers.

Minette Batters said there was an ‘absolute crisis’, meaning food was being ploughed back into land on farms.

This is despite more people relying on food banks and an increase in the cost of many products since the war in Ukraine, which is a major worldwide supplier of grain crops.

She told Times Radio: ‘It’s a growing problem. I know glasshouses where tomatoes remain unpicked, we know there was a big crop of lettuces that was ploughed back in last week.

‘Growers are extremely reluctant to put their name to this because it will massively compromise their business with their contractual relationship going forwards.

‘So there is a real nervousness about speaking out on food waste on farms but it is happening at scale.’

Mr Johnson said today he was supporting both his green agenda and UK farming. 

Speaking during a visit to Southern England Farms in Hayle, south west Cornwall, the Prime Minister insisted the UK is ‘leading the world on the on the green agenda’.

‘What you’ve got to make sure that you do is that you look after UK food and farming and recognise that we have an opportunity to eat much more of what we grow in this country and and produce much more in the UK,’ he said.

The Prime Minister will today unveil plans to boost farmers and encourage Britons to buy local by supercharging the production of home-grown fruit and vegetables.

The head of the National Farmers’ Union warned good food is routinely going to waste across the country due to a shortage of workers. Minette Batters said there was an ‘absolute crisis’, meaning food was being ploughed back into land on farms.

Leon restaurant co-founder and government adviser Henry Dimbleby hit out, saying while the plan was ‘progress’, more was needed.

Food security will be at the heart of Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit strategy and will include growing tomatoes in greenhouses as large as the Millennium Dome, now known as The O2.

‘So that’s why we’re supporting Great British farming, putting money into a modernisation into innovation.’

He hailed a planting ‘gizmo’ he was shown that can plant 150,000 cabbages a day and ‘cuts costs for the consumer’.

Although the current level of food produced will broadly remain the same, £270million will be invested to supercharge production in sectors such as seafood and horticulture.

Planning red tape could be removed for the new giant greenhouses, which could grow up to 20 tonnes of tomatoes a day.

Just 15 per cent of tomatoes supplied in the UK are grown here but the plan encourages British producers to use new-age greenhouse technology to reduce reliance on overseas traders. 

Launching the strategy on Monday, the Government said it had accepted ‘the majority of recommendations’ from the food tsar’s report, with policy initiatives to boost health, sustainability and accessibility of diets, and to secure food supply’.

One clear priority for ministers is to reduce the distance between farm and fork, with a vision for 50 per cent of public sector food spend to go on food produced locally or certified to higher standards.

The strategy also sets out plans to create a new professional body for the farming and growing industry, to boost training and develop clear career pathways, equipping people and businesses with the skills needed to run sustainable and profitable businesses.

Mr Johnson, who visited a farm in Cornwall today, said: ‘Our food strategy sets out a blueprint for how we will back farmers, boost British industry and help protect people against the impacts of future economic shocks by safeguarding our food security. Harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food, unlocking jobs and growing the economy.’

But proposals for a controversial sugar tax and measures to get people to cut their meat intake on health grounds are believed to have been axed.

A leaked draft of the strategy, published by The Guardian on Friday, caused a stir when it appeared to reveal calls for a sugar and salt reformulation tax had been snubbed.

The review also urged the Government to ‘nudge’ consumers into changing their meat-eating habits.

But while the draft paper said ministers would ‘support progress on a wide range of issues, including alternative proteins’, it suggested sustainable sources of protein did not have to ‘displace traditional sectors’, pointing to ‘regenerative farming’.

Leon restaurant co-founder and government adviser Henry Dimbleby hit out, saying while the plan was ‘progress’, more was needed.

Mr Johnson said today he was supporting both his green agenda and UK farming. Speaking during a visit to Southern England Farms in Hayle, south west Cornwall, the Prime Minister insisted the UK is ‘leading the world on the on the green agenda’.

Mr Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain who has seen the plan, told BBC Breakfast: ‘Is it the big, bold, unified strategy I think we need? No.

‘Do I think we’re going in the right direction? Yes.’

He said his recommendation of an effective salt and sugar tax would be responded to by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid at a later date.

He said: ‘I’m hoping that the Health Secretary will be bold and brave in a difficult political context and act to break that junk food cycle and we get away from this narrative of personal responsibility and education which is important, but it isn’t going to get us out of the hole we’re in.’ 

Jim McMahon, Labour’s shadow secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, accused the Government of failing to deliver ‘much more than a new slogan’.

‘The Government themselves say the food industry is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined, yet all they have done is re-announce existing funding,’ he said.

‘This is nothing more than a statement of vague intentions, not a concrete proposal to tackle the major issues facing our country. To call it a food strategy is bordering on the preposterous.

‘Yet again this tired, out-of-ideas Conservative Government is failing to show the ambition our country needs.’

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