COLUMN BY Siobhan Baillie MP

Bad weather in Spain and north Africa has led to a shortage of some vegetables and fruit.

Some supermarkets have put limits on items like tomatoes, broccoli and cucumbers and this will last for a few weeks.

High energy prices have also affected production in glasshouses here and in The Netherlands.

In response, the environment secretary said she understood the concerns and quite reasonably suggested consumers might like to look at seasonal home grown produce.

What followed was howls of nonsense about a government minister requiring everyone to eat turnips and blaming leaving the European Union.

It seems the loudest angst about wanting imported vegetables was from people who usually campaign to lower our carbon footprint.

The UK actually has a highly resilient and diverse food supply chain.

We are well equipped to deal with disruption.

It worked really well during the pandemic and this problem is nothing on that scale.

People want year-round choice of fruit and vegetables but sometimes things can go wrong and I am sure we will cope without the need for a diet of only root vegetables or turnip hysteria.

Food security is a huge priority for the government.

I welcome any national focus on how important UK farmers are and why supporting them is best.

Ministers will also be holding an industry roundtable with supermarkets to discuss how they can return supplies to normal.

I think we need to review energy support for farmers’ glasshouses ahead of the Spring Budget.

But Government has already intervened to support energy costs, cut tariffs to reduce feed costs, improved bird flu compensation schemes and taken a range of measures on fertilisers that have gone up in price following the war in Ukraine.

We produce 61% of all the food we need, and 74% of food which we can grow in the UK for all or part of the year.

These figures have changed little over the last 20 years so we should see these shortages within that context.

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