Green food report favours home-grown curry

Dried herbs and spices (Image: BBC) The demand for herbs and spices is forecast to grow in the future

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England could spice up its food production by growing more herbs and spices, says a report looking at the nation's future food security.

It said it could become possible if the UK's climate changes, as could growing chickpeas "for roti-bread flour".

Experts involved in the government-convened Green Food Project also called for improvements in yields, resource efficiency and wildlife protection.

The findings will be unveiled by Farming Minster Jim Paice.

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set up the project in order to bring together representatives in farming, manufacturing, science and conservation to look at measures to ensure the UK's food system can cope with future pressures.

Among the issues facing the sector are climate change, a growing population, changes in diet and eating habits.

"With our increasingly hungry world, every country must place its part to produce more food and improve the environment," Mr Paice said.

"We're not talking about Soviet-style targets but an overall approach in which the whole food chain pulls together."

Food for thought

The project consisted of five subgroups to look at particular areas within the food system - wheat, dairy, bread, curry and geographical areas - with the goal of consider ways to "reconcile how we will achieve our goals of improving the environment and increasing good production".

The project's steering group identified a number of "strategic steps" that could be taken to strengthen the food chain, including:

  • Research and technology - improve knowledge base and science capability; also improve forecasting potential scenarios the sector will face in the future
  • Knowledge exchange - improve the way in which research and advice is shared between food, farming and environmental sectors
  • Investment - giving farmers and businesses confidence that investments will improve future performance
  • Ecosystem services - develop a clear understanding of the economic costs and environmental risks of allowing such services to deteriorate
  • Consumption and waste - initiate further work on how to tackle problems within the food system surrounding consumption, demand and waste

Among the organisations represented were the National Farmers' Union, the British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation, WWF and the RSPB.

Commenting on the report, RSPB conservation director and member of the steering group Martin Harper said: "It is clear that food production and consumption urgently need to change.

"The project is an important first step towards working out what England's contribution should be to help food production to become more sustainable and shared more equitably."

Another member of the steering group, WWF-UK's head of food programme Mark Driscoll, also described the report as a first step, but said more needed to be done.

"The establishment of a consumption forum, but this has to be much more than just a talking shop," he said.

"It must report back with clear recommendations and a timetable for action from government, business and civil society."

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