Largest horticulture nation

Largest horticulture nation

Largest horticulture nation is becoming a net importer of produce in UK

The largest horticulture nation in the world is becoming a net importer of produce in the United Kingdom.

Research by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) showed British growers had reduced their net output for the first time since 2013.

This was due to the fact UK consumers are eating a greater proportion of fresh produce imported from abroad.

Among vegetables, imports from Spain have contributed to falling UK output, particularly for some varieties such as broccoli.

The UK has the highest levels of imports of strawberries in the EU. In 2017-2018, the country imported 41,415 tonnes of strawberries compared to France’s 9,900 tonnes and Italy’s 2,845 tonnes.

In addition, the NFU says the recent plummeting pound has also contributed to the drop in British crops.

Last month, the Brexit Secretary warned of Brexit ‘backing farmers’ against high food prices and that the UK would look to “source” food domestically if “that’s what is in the best interest of the UK”.

Video: Theresa May calls the UK’s Brexit deal a success

With the Brexit transition period set to end in March 2019, it is likely British crops will need to compete for customers with imports from countries who have not yet agreed to the EU’s new trading arrangement.

NFU vice-president Mick Todd said: “The pressure is on and the industry cannot carry on losing out to imported produce.

“There are many factors behind the drop in crop production in the UK – but we are the country that can’t seem to import crops it can’t grow in the first place.

“Growing British crops is the patriotic thing to do. It is good for our consumers, it is good for the economy, it is good for the countryside, and it is good for the UK.”

Kate Bailey, the NFU’s Brexit lead, said: “To have been the biggest importer of fresh produce for four years, a position which we knew we could not defend any longer, is extremely disappointing.

“With the international markets seeing the UK as a key destination for the global economy – and for its food and drink sector – we cannot continue to sell so much of what we produce to our partners in the rest of the world.

“It is clear that it is no longer a matter of if, but when the UK leaves the EU, and the sooner the better for all involved.”

If the country leaves the EU on March 29 next year, the government hopes to maintain “frictionless” trade with countries outside of the bloc.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who is currently in China for trade talks, has said she “welcomes” the deal.

However, there is growing concern that British farmers will suffer under the new arrangements.

Last month, the farmers’ union, the NFU, said around 100,000 jobs will be lost in the coming years due to EU imports hitting UK food supplies.

Last year, imports of French and Spanish produce in the UK topped £1.3billion – some 25% of the country’s fresh produce.

Responding to the findings, the Foreign Office said: “The Government is determined to provide a level playing field for the UK post-Brexit – making sure we can continue to sell our great food and drink across the globe.

“We recognise the EU’s common agricultural policy has put too much support into farmers, with the UK’s agriculture currently benefiting from £1 billion more per year in direct support than our closest rivals.

“The government