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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Fair Food Prices and Farm Income Needed Alongside Local Food Strategy

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The Scottish Government has published its long-awaited Local Food Strategy, focused on “connecting individuals and businesses with local food”.

Introduced by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, the strategy states:

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy food and drink produced locally and for producers of all sizes to access the markets on their doorsteps.”

It sets out a number of aims, including better access to local food for those on lower incomes, increased food growing opportunities in local communities, and more farmers’ markets and other ways to buy direct from producers. 

Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess welcomed the strategy but raised questions during a Rural Affairs and Islands Committee session, as new figures show food prices remain prohibitively high.

Ms Burgess said:

“The Local Food Strategy contains ambitious aims, many of which I have been championing since my work on the Good Food Nation Bill in 2021.

“I’m delighted that it recognises the value of direct connection between local producers and buyers.

“There are several great examples in the Highlands and Islands, from The Green Bowl collaboration which sells food produced on the crofts and common grazings of Elphin and Knockan, to Knockfarrel produce which delivers croft-produced veg, eggs, pork, preserves and more direct to people’s homes.

“Initiatives like these contribute to thriving rural communities and keep money circulating in the local economy.

“But we must ensure that local producers receive a fair income, and that consumers can afford the food they produce.

“When it comes to fruit and veg, often this isn’t the case.

“Small-scale growers are not eligible for government income support that other farmers enjoy, while horticulture workers on larger farms are often not paid a fixed, fair wage.

“That’s why today I highlighted the importance of a fair income and support for local fruit and veg production, as called for by Propagate, Nourish Scotland and Land Workers Alliance.

“Meanwhile the cost of buying fruit and vegetables makes them unavailable to too many.

“When I raised this in a previous Committee session, Professor Jennie Macdiarmid confirmed that “people on a very low income tend not to purchase fruit and vegetables – when that is your level of income, there is really no choice.”

“I fully agree with Prof Macdiarmid that “support needs to come at both ends of the spectrum”, for growers and for consumers, to achieve the Local Food Strategy and Good Food Nation Plan.”

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