While acknowledging the contribution of existing schemes – such as Red Tractor Assurance and Leaf – Gove told delegates: “There is no single, scaled measure of how a farmer or food producer performs against a sensible basket of indicators.”
Key metrics of the scheme, designed to showcase the excellence of British food and farming, should be animal welfare, control of pollution, contribution to water quality and soil health.
The minister disclosed: “We’ve been in discussion with a number of farmers and food producers about how we might devise such a scheme. Outside the EU, we could establish a measure of farm and food quality, which would be world leading.”
Promoting the quality and provenance of British food and farming were the keys to success in world markets, he said. “We will succeed in the global marketplace because we are competing at the top of the value chain; not trying to win a race to the bottom.”
‘Gold-standard metric for food and farming quality’
Government can help that process by underwriting that reputation for quality. “Which is why I want us, outside the EU, to develop new approaches to food labelling. Not just badging food properly as British, but creating a gold-standard metric for food and farming quality.”
Key factors behind the success of Britain’s fastest growing food and drink brands were their ability to provide consumers with certainly over the origin of their production – including traceability of ingredients, integrity in production and a distinctiveness in taste, said the environment secretary.
Good examples of brands delivering such qualities, he said, were: Tyrrell‘s crisps, H Forman & Son’s London-cured smoked salmon, Belvoir soft drinks and Botanist Gin. He also praised regional food products such as: Devon and Welsh lamb, Cumberland sausages, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar and Melton Mowbray pork pies.
‘Top of the value chain’
“We will succeed in the global marketplace because we are competing at the top of the value chain; not trying to win a race to the bottom.”
- Michael Gove
‘Profits in food production lie in quality produce’
“The future profits in food production lie in quality produce,” Gove told the conference.
The minister pledged to help boost food and drink exports by championing British produce in foreign markets, keeping existing markets open and securing new free-trade deals for producers.
And he pledged to step up the procurement of British food and drink products across government departments.
In a wide-ranging conference speech, Gove also revealed plans to maintain support payments to farmers at their current level for the next five years, until the general election of 2022, as part of a transition period in England to help accommodate Brexit.
But support payments would be paid for the delivery of “public goods”, such as providing access to the countryside and managing wildflower meadows. He also planned to cap support payments to large-scale landowners.
The Oxford Farming Conference, held in the Examination Schools in the city began on Wednesday (January 3) and ends today (January 5).
Meanwhile, read FoodManufacture.co.uk next week to learn why Gove believes food manufacturers should no longer rely on migrant labour.