UK Says It Will Prioritise Food Security as Global Prices Soar

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(Bloomberg) — The UK said it will prioritize food security in its new strategy for farming to be published on Monday, with funding aimed at boosting production to help protect consumers against economic shocks. The outlined plan disappointed campaigners for more sustainable farming.

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The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs said £270 million ($332 million) will be invested in farming innovation and programs until 2029. The planning permission process will also be reviewed to support glasshouse developments in a bid to reduce imports, while the government also said would consult on labeling and procurement rules to boost local production.

The move comes with global food prices near record highs, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sharply reduced vital exports of grains and vegetable oils from there. That has added to pressures from the pandemic and high energy and input costs. In the UK, Boris Johnson’s government is struggling to contain a cost of living crisis that has hurt his ruling Conservative Party in polls.

“Harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food — unlocking jobs across the country and growing the economy, which in turn will ultimately help to reduce pressure on prices,” Johnson said in the statement.

British farms are also struggling to recruit enough labor, a problem which has been exacerbated by Brexit. The government said it will launch an independent review on that and also extend the seasonal workers visa route for poultry.

Still, campaigners said the strategy doesn’t do enough to tackle the environmental impact of farming, or the millions who can’t afford a healthy diet.

“No one in leadership in government appears to have really grasped the scale and urgency of the challenges posed to our health and our planet by the food system,” Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation, said in a statement. “These challenges are growing exponentially with the cost of living crisis.”

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