My Lords, I recognise the role of farmers and the food industry in putting food on our plates, and I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on bringing this debate and putting local food production front and centre. Ideally, local food, locally distributed and bought in local shops should be what we are aiming for, and it complies with the essential requirement of traceability. Food and drink are part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, and the ability to feed ourselves is essential and should be at the heart of any government policy.
In addition to sourcing more food locally, I make a plea to my noble friend the Minister that we should now avail ourselves of public procurement policy that is no longer bound by EU policy. Will the Government issue guidance to ensure that schools, hospitals, prisons, local authorities and other public bodies source more domestically produced food?
Imports of fruit, meat and vegetables are higher than what we currently produce, so will the Government take action to ensure that we have greater self-sufficiency by boosting home production? That is not to say that exports are not important, particularly in areas such as pig-farming—pig parts are appetising to the Chinese and provide a great export opportunity for somewhere such as the Malton bacon factory. Will the Minister ensure that we do more to improve our self-sufficiency, by taking more home-produced food, and that animals are moving through the chain, through livestock marts and abattoirs?