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Dimbleby says the government’s new food plan is ‘not a strategy’

The architect of a major review of the country’s food system has poured cold water on the government’s vision for the industry, saying his new plan is ‘not a strategy’.

Boris Johnson has promised the plan, which will be launched on Monday, will ‘support farmers’, after a leaked draft of the document was condemned by critics as ‘half-baked’.

The ministers aim to strengthen the resilience of the country’s supply chains and increase domestic production, so that “we grow and consume more of our own food”, in order to safeguard against future economic shocks and crises.

But the government’s food czar said the response to his extensive review of the system fell short of what was needed.

Boris Johnson said the government’s strategy would ‘support farmers’ (Peter Byrne/PA)

Leon’s restaurant co-founder Henry Dimbleby told the Guardian the document was ‘not a strategy’, saying: ‘It does not set out a clear vision of why we have the problems we have now and it does not state what needs to be done.”

It comes after ministers were accused of concocting a plan ‘bordering on the absurd’ because it apparently failed to implement the review’s key recommendations.

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

The newspaper said Mr Dimbleby had seen the final document and said ‘there was really nothing there about health’.

The review also urged the government to ‘induce’ consumers to change their meat eating habits.

But while the draft document said ministers would ‘support progress on a wide range of issues, including alternative proteins’, it suggested that sustainable sources of protein need not ‘displace traditional sectors’, pointing towards “regenerative agriculture”.

Mr Dimbleby said: “They said we needed alternative protein, but they failed to mention the inescapable truth that eating meat in this country is not compatible with an agricultural system that protects agriculture. and sequesters carbon.”

The National Farmers Union said ministers had ‘stripped to the bone’ the Dimbleby review proposals, while Labor said the document was ‘nothing more than a statement of vague intentions”.

Launching the strategy on Monday, the government said it had accepted “the majority of the recommendations” of the Food Czar’s report, with policy initiatives to improve the health, sustainability and accessibility of diets, and to secure the food supply”.

A clear priority for ministers is to reduce the distance between farm and fork, with a vision for 50% of public sector food spending to be on locally produced or certified food to higher standards.

The strategy also includes creating a new trade body for the agriculture and culture industry, boosting training and developing clear career paths, equipping people and businesses with the skills to run sustainable businesses. and profitable.

Mr Johnson said: “Our food strategy sets out a blueprint for how we will support farmers, boost UK industry and help protect people from the impacts of future economic shocks by safeguarding our food security.

“By harnessing new technologies and innovation, we will grow and eat more of our own food – unlocking jobs across the country and growing the economy, ultimately helping to reduce pressure on prices.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The food industry is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined, providing job opportunities, apprenticeships and investment in research and development.

Cabinet meeting
Environment Secretary George Eustice (James Manning/PA)

“The strategy we are developing today will put more emphasis on skills in the food sector, as well as the roles and career paths available. In particular, we will seek to boost our horticulture industry and secure the expertise needed to develop the sector here in the UK.

But 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 itself says the food industry is bigger than the auto and aerospace industries combined, but all it has done is re-announce existing funding,” he said.

“It’s nothing more than a vague statement of intent, not a concrete proposal to tackle the big problems facing our country. To call it a food strategy is bordering on absurd.

“Once again, this tired and clueless Conservative government is failing to show the ambition our country needs.”

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of agricultural group Sustain, said: ‘In the face of multiple cost of living crises, soaring obesity, climate change and loss of nature, the government’s food strategy looks shamefully weak.

“The government has received a clear analysis and set of recommendations from the Dimbleby food strategy, and has chosen to only move forward with a handful of them.

“It’s not a strategy, it’s a weak to-do list, which may or may not be checked off.”

The Food Foundation called the document “disappointing”, saying it “misses that target” because many of its commitments “will manage without new legislation to hold them”.

The charity’s executive director, Anna Taylor, said: ‘Despite its name, the whole document lacks a strategy to move the food system towards providing good food accessible to all.

“And without a commitment to a new food bill, many of the laudable commitments made are actually toothless.

“This is a weak interpretation of Henry Dimbleby’s recommendations, which will not be enough to drive the long-term change that we know is so urgently needed.”