The meals swaps to assist British farmers as Rishi Sunak holds summit

Rishi Sunak today unveiled new policies to reduce the UK’s reliance on overseas fruit and vegetables – and shoppers can help these efforts by carrying out some everyday food swaps. 

The Prime Minister used a food summit in Downing Street to tell farmers they are ‘vital to the security and fabric of our country’ while warning that a new ‘food security index’ has found the UK is too reliant on imports.

The study, which will report on food production and land use on an annual basis, found just 55 per cent of vegetables bought in this country are grown domestically and only 17 per cent of fruit.

Swapping tropical fruits like avocados and bananas for home-grown alternatives, such as in-season strawberries, is one of the most obvious changes consumers can make. 

Alternatively, avocado on toast could be switched for the more traditional eggs on toast. 

Pictured are food swaps shoppers can make if they want to support British farmers 

Eating carrots and cauliflower rather than peppers and courgettes would increase the chance your food is being grown domestically, as would opting for cheddar cheese rather than mozzarella. 

Less well known is the fact that only around a fifth of tomatoes bought in Britain are grown here and that staple vegetables like broccoli are only available for half of the year. 

By contrast, UK-grown beetroot and peas can be bought all year round thanks to cool storage methods and, in the case of peas, freezing. 

Wheat is the nation’s biggest crop, with 14 million tonnes grown here each year. But certain types like durum wheat, which is used for pizza and pasta, are hard to grow in the UK – making bread a better option for supporting domestic producers. 

While persuading Brits to ditch pizza may be a challenge, switching from Champagne to English sparkling wine seems a less painful move given its taste and quality has been widely hailed by experts. 

And switching king prawns farmed in Asia for langoustines and lobster caught wild in UK waters would provide a welcome boost to the nation’s fishing industry.

Although food supplies are not under immediate threat, ministers believe the Ukraine war has exposed the risk of relying too heavily on foreign supply chains.

A string of new announcements include grants worth £10 million to help orchard owners increase production of apples and pears.

Overall funding to encourage more horticultural production will be doubled to £80 million.

Rishi Sunak used a food summit in Downing Street today to tell farmers they are 'vital to the security and fabric of our country'

Rishi Sunak used a food summit in Downing Street today to tell farmers they are ‘vital to the security and fabric of our country’

Mr Sunak chatting with producers at today's food summit at Number 10

Mr Sunak chatting with producers at today’s food summit at Number 10  

A further £15 million will be made available to develop new crop varieties that are more resistant to disease and require fewer inputs.

Mr Sunak will also order a review into cutting red tape for the construction of glasshouses and polytunnels.

Speaking ahead of the summit, the PM said: ‘Come rain or shine, I will always back British farmers. From feeding the nation to protecting our countryside, they are vital to the security and the fabric of our country.

‘This package of support will help farmers produce more British food, delivers on our long-term plan to invest in our rural communities, and ensures the very best of our home-grown products end up on our plates.

‘I know for many farmers, the impact of adverse weather in recent months has made working the land even harder, but my message is clear, our support for you is unwavering and we will be with you every step of the way.’

Today’s summit will also discuss the impact of the wettest start of the year for decades, with ministers set to unveil £75 million in funding to improve drainage and prevent fields becoming waterlogged.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘Food security is vital to our national security, which is why today’s summit is so important, bringing together government and key representatives from the farming and food sector at Downing Street.

‘This announcement will turbocharge the growth of our horticultural sector supporting the building of cutting-edge glasshouses and innovative farming techniques to put British fruit and vegetables on our plates all year round.

‘We will continue to invest in and support farmers to produce the best of British food to strengthen our food security, championing innovation in the sector.’

Mr Sunak speaks with staff of Rodda's Clotted Cream during the Farm to Fork summit

Mr Sunak speaks with staff of Rodda’s Clotted Cream during the Farm to Fork summit

Avocados are one example of a tropical or subtropical fruit that cannot be grown outside in the UK

Avocados are one example of a tropical or subtropical fruit that cannot be grown outside in the UK 

Shadow environment spokesman Steve Reed said: ‘After 14 years of Tory failure, our farmers are at breaking point.

‘The Conservative government has stood idly by as farmers – including our great fruit and veg growers – have been devastated by flooding, skyrocketing energy prices and undermined by dodgy Tory trade deals. As a result, thousands are being forced out of business.

‘Labour will introduce a New Deal for Farmers to put money into their pockets and boost Britain’s food security. We will cut farmers’ energy bills, slash red tape at the borders to get our food exports moving again, and use the Government’s own purchasing power to back British produce.’

Sir Robert Goodwill, chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efra), said: ‘My committee’s Food Security Report called on the Government to hold an annual summit, so we welcome the second annual summit taking place today and believe it presents a significant opportunity to tackle the serious issues facing farmers and the food supply chain.

‘We are pleased that today’s summit sees the publication of the first UK Food Security Index, as my committee pushed for in its report. We urge the Government to keep its commitment to enshrine the requirement to publish the index in law and to do so at the earliest opportunity.

‘The farming sector works tirelessly to feed the nation and protect its natural environment, and I wholeheartedly welcome the PM’s commitment to backing our British farmers.

‘It is vital that farmers and agricultural industries are provided with the support they need to thrive, against the difficult conditions they are facing.’