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Monday, March 4, 2024

Support Local Fruit and Veg Growers for a Good Food Nation, Says Highlands & Islands MSP

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A Green MSP has highlighted the plight of valued local food producers in the Highlands and Islands who are facing the prospect of closure.

In response to the publication of the Good Food Nation Plan earlier this week, Ariane Burgess wrote to the Scottish Government about supporting struggling farmers, crofters and growers that do not receive standard farm support payments.

Last September research found that half of British fruit and vegetable farmers were at risk of going out of business in the next 12 months, as farm costs rise along with the cost of living. 

Leading figures warn of a drop in larger-scale fruit and vegetable production which would mean even less local food on supermarket shelves.

Many small scale growers manage less than 3 hectares of land, making them ineligible for government support.

Ms Burgess proposed removing this condition, to throw a lifeline to growers, farmers and crofters in this position.

To ensure good value for public money, farmers would still be required to meet other criteria including demonstrating that they are a viable business.

Ms Burgess’ letter quoted a constituent who said:

“I really value our fortnightly box from our local grower.

“I want to support small scale producers – I also use the Green Bowl which is a local collective based in Elphin because I believe it is good for food security apart from investing in and supporting our local economy.” 

Ms Burgess said:

“Constituents in the Highlands and Islands tell me they want to be able to buy more local food.

“This week the Scottish Government published its first Good Food Nation Plan, “to help connect people to locally produced, high-quality food.”

“But how can Scotland truly be a Good Food Nation without supporting our hard-working fruit and veg growers that communities rely upon for fresh, local, sustainable food?

“England, Wales and Ireland are all in the process of removing this outdated condition from their farm support schemes.

“This small change would make a big difference to small businesses.

“It would support rural jobs in small-scale farming, crofting, market gardening and local supply chains.

“And it would help make good, local food available to all, supercharging efforts to make Scotland a Good Food Nation.”

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