Siobhan Baillie on the opening of Stonehouse market

In glorious weather, local people turned out in big numbers to celebrate this community asset and enjoy the live music, dance show and a wide range of products on sale.

Well done to Councillor Nick Housden for securing £20,000 of the Build Back Better – Market Towns Fund into Stonehouse to help with this initiative.

The market will be a focal point to drive retail activity in the town and help it grow. I was hugely impressed with the community support and commitment from the volunteers.

I have always been a huge advocate of local produce and producers.

Shopping locally keeps local jobs, lessens the environmental impact of producing our food and it drives quality.

We need to produce more of our own food and the pandemic disruption to supplies and the war in Ukraine has made this more pressing.

So, with the above in mind I very much welcome the government publishing its Food Strategy this week too.

The UK is largely self-sufficient in wheat, most meats, eggs, and some sectors of vegetable production.

Sectors like soft fruit have seen a trend towards greater self-sufficiency in recent years with an extended UK season displacing imports. Overall, the country produces around 75 per cent  of what we consume and that has been stable for the past 20 years.

The food strategy is committed to keeping it at broadly the same level in future, the strategy explained.

However, there are areas where investment in technology would help especially as the cost of some food is rising.

For example, the UK only produces 15 per cent of tomatoes supplied domestically, but new generation technology, such as sustainable and efficient glasshouses, could reduce our reliance on imported tomatoes.

The government has announced £270 million will be invested across farming innovation funding programmes until 2029, to develop technologies to drive sustainable farming techniques.

This investment will look to increase productivity and profitability and the sector’s long-term resilience, it said.

The strategy also sets out plans to create a new professional body for the farming and growing industry to enable professional training and develop careers, and equip people and businesses with the skills they need to run sustainable and profitable businesses.

This is good news for Stroud farmers and good government for the long term.

The food industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK by some way and exists in all parts of the country too.

The strategy is also focussing on healthy as well as sustainable food production.

We have an obesity epidemic in this country and the strategy is designed to complement government measures in place to support those struggling to afford food and help them eat healthily through the Healthy Start Scheme, breakfast clubs, and the Holiday Activities and Food Programme

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