New Defra Secretary Michael Gove has alarmed the farming industry by suggesting food will become cheaper as production standards are raised.
In a confused interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Gove stood by his previous claims food prices would drop after Brexit, but also promised to up food production standards for farmers.
He said: “Getting out of the Common Agricultural Policy means we can ensure our farmers are better protected than ever before. We can also ensure we have higher environmental and animal welfare standards.
“There are opportunities through a new approach towards the Common Agricultural Policy, or new trade deals, for us not just to market our fantastic high-quality produce abroad, but also to ensure overall we reduce pressure on the weekly household budget for food and other things as well.”
Asked outright if he thought the promise on cheaper food made during the EU referendum campaign was achievable, Mr Gove answered ‘yes, I do’.
NFU deputy president Minette Batters said the interview had posed ‘many very serious questions’.
“It is very early days to be talking about cheaper food and higher standards of welfare and environmental protection”, she added.
“What will shape the landscape and the price of food is the trade deal which is achieved. He also talked about protecting UK farmers – so does that mean British farmers producing cheaper food or will he be looking to import it? If so, how does that fit with protectionism?”
Farmers responded angrily to the claims on Twitter, with one saying his comments were ‘rather disappointing’.
Others said food was already too cheap and asked how he would manage to reduce prices while increasing standards.
Having his cake and eating it...— Emily Norton (@emilymnorton)
Having his cake and eating it...— Emily Norton (@emilymnorton) June 19, 2017
I’ll be interested how he manages that? #farming— James Small (@doitinwellies)
Farmers Guardian approached Defra for clarification, but was refused official comment.