Farmers, manufacturers and the government need to “take action” to reduce the amount of food that we import, Owen Paterson has said.

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The environment secretary hailed the country’s “top-class” fruit and veg sector, and said that buying British would help the environment, improve the economy and the nation’s health, in a speech to a farming conference.

Norfolk chairman of the National Farmers Union Ken Proctor said that the body already did promote British food as it was the “right thing to do”. But he said: “The customer is king. We can’t tell them what to eat and what they should and shouldn’t be eating.”

He said that the farming industry was “producing good wholesome products at prices people could afford”.

“Our industry is very lean, mean and efficient. It has to be. Our industry is not propped up and you have to compete,” he added.

In his speech Mr Paterson said that Britain grew “some of the best food in the world”, yet almost a quarter of the food eaten in the UK was imported, when it could be produced here.

“We have a top-class fruit and veg sector which produces everything from green beans to strawberries, yet we imported £8bn of fruit and veg in 2012. We can’t grow mangoes or pineapples, but we can encourage UK consumers and food businesses to buy Scottish raspberries or Kent apples.”

He said that the public sector should be supporting the UK’s world class farmers.

In the closing speech of the conference tomorrow, Norfolk MP George Freeman will talk about how agriculture will be transformed.

He said this evening: “The pace and scale of globalisation, population growth, technological innovation and social change over the next few decades is transforming agriculture, creating huge challenges and opportunities for the next generation of farming.”

He said food and farming was getting both more global and more local. The need to grow more food with fewer fertilisers and chemicals, in a way that consumers can have trust and confidence in, has never been greater,” he said.

“Tomorrow’s farming will see whole range of innovations such as ‘Nutriceutical’ ‘functional foods’ which prevent disease, SatNav-guided driverless farm machinery, and a growth in organic and local production sourced to individual farms and fields.

He said it would be a new “green revolution” in farming.

“Just as Norfolk was the crucible of the first Agricultural Revolution so, given the Norwich Research Park and the Norfolk Show and Easton College and our world class food and farming sector, Norfolk is once again becoming the home of agricultural innovation.”

12 comments

  • my multiple comments have been censored.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

  • What ever is Freeman on about, we have grown food for 1000's of years. You do not need all this high tec rubbish, you want home grown food with some taste in it. Get away from sugar and all the chemicals to make it, cut down on the salt and lets have real food and not GM

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    Sweet cheeks

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • Well said alecto - nothing 'World Class' about toxins and heavy metals entering the food chain downwind of an incinerator, thanks to his gonks at Defra.

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    User Removed

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • This is the bloke that dallied around not stopping the incinerator. Does he not realise that crops grown near such buildings are turned down for consumption by humans? Does he just regurgitate whatever his spads put in front of him with his morning Fruit Loops?

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    alecto

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • First Job is, Owen, safeguarding UK production areas from flooding. I can understand that you are not in favour of the EU stealing African fish resources and selling them in our supermarkets, but, your Government is not in Europe, they are sitting on the fence whilst the EU is re-organising. By all means stop the pork imports from Europe some 140.000 tons, but don't expect them to take our 90.000 tons of exported UK pork. And, pineapples were grown in Yorkshire 150 years ago, big deal.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • We can only grow these fresh foods if the fenlands are kept as they are. Precaution demands that this large area producing approx. 4-6 billion worth of food each year, is safeguarded from our chaotic weatherpatterns and storm surges that could breach the old dykes, our only defense. Maybe Owen Paterson would like to stimulate the insurance giants to get involved in tidal energy schemes and sea defences, rather than loosing the realm to the sea.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • First Job is, Owen, safeguarding UK production areas from flooding. I can understand that you are not in favour of the EU stealing African fish resources and selling them in our supermarkets, but, your Government is not in Europe, they are sitting on the fence whilst the EU is re-organising. By all means stop the pork imports from Europe some 140.000 tons, but don't expect them to take our 90.000 tons of exported UK pork. And, pineapples were grown in Yorkshire 150 years ago, big deal.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • Did Owen Patterson mention Norfolk or is this just another misleading headline by the EDP?

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    Honest John

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

  • People like Mr Paterson speak with a forked tongue, I'm afraid.

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    John L Norton

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • And this is the same minister who said it would be alright to build on ancient woodland if developers planted trees elsewhere!! With regard to population growth we can limit this if we want to, exactly as Germany is doing.

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    andy

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

  • Hilarious. 'we need to reduce reliance on food imports' says minister for government who are actively watering down the planning system, to make it easier to cover productive farmland in houses, roads and retail parks. Loving that consistent approach and 'joined-up' thinking.

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    beeston bump

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

  • Did Owen Patterson mention Norfolk or is this just another misleading headline by the EDP?

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    Honest John

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

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