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Local retailers and producers have been among the short list of beneficiaries during Covid-19, as the pandemic inspired more consumers to shop at independent businesses. And new data from OnePoll reveals that the desire for British-made food and drink is soaring, with 73% of the public often or always looking specifically for British food when shopping. The figure is the highest seen since the Farmer Favourability Survey began in 2012.
The research also showed record-breaking levels of support for British food and farming that were reached at the start of the pandemic have continued this year. Three-quarters of people, or 75%, voiced a positive view of UK farming. “It’s fantastic to see record-high support for British food and farming maintained over the course of what has been a challenging year for everyone,” said Minette Batters, president of the NFU.
Despite this show of support, British farmers are facing challenges. Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Prince Charles warned that small family farms are under threat from intensive agriculture. He warned that if they go it will “ rip the heart out of the British countryside” if they go. The National Food Strategy, which was published on 15th July, supported rethinking Britain’s food systems to ensure they are more sustainable without relying on intensive farming practices. “Farmers must be at the centre of this transition in our food system. They are the custodians of the land,” the report said.
Another threat facing farmers is the risk of cheap imports flooding the market. The Government’s trade deal with Australia caused controversy within the food and farming sectors due to its lack of clear safeguards for food standards. As the National Food Strategy said: “The Government needs a trade policy that supports its environmental ambitions. Otherwise we will end up transferring damaging practices from one part of the planet to another, and driving thousands of our own farmers to the wall.”
The Farmer Favourability Survey reveals consumer support of high standards is strong, with 85% of people wanting future trade deals to protect UK farmers from being undercut. Furthermore, 84% of respondents said trade deals should ensure environmental farming standards for imports are the same as the UK’s, and 86% said it’s important that animal welfare standards of imported products match our own.
“As the government develops its new agriculture and trade policies, as well as its first ever UK food strategy, this is a clear message from the British public that they value and trust British food,” Minette said. “They have demonstrated time and time again that animal welfare and sustainability are not things they are going to overlook, whether it’s food produced here or overseas, and it’s important that these values are at the forefront and embedded in every policy decision.”
With consumer demand for British-made food and drink reaching record levels, indie retailers have the opportunity to be ambassadors for British producers, showcasing the best, and most delicious, products the country’s makers and growers have to offer.