European farm ministers have voted to adopt a regulation which will promote the consumption of milk products, fruit and vegetables in schools, but the UK abstained and will not be supporting the new regulation.
The scheme, which has an annual budget of €250m (£201m), will see supporting countries select agricultural products to supply to schools in an attempt to promote the qualities of both local food and healthy eating habits.
“The UK’s abstention is hugely disappointing and represents a missed opportunity for the agricultural sector. A scheme like this is absolutely worth supporting, especially when you take the rise in child obesity into account,” said FUW president, Glyn Roberts.
“It is in all of our interests to educate our young people and small children about where their food comes from and what constitutes as a healthy diet.
“Welsh and UK produce should be available in our schools, hospitals, local authorities, leisure centres and nursing homes throughout the year.
“Other European countries are extremely good at promoting the relationship between agriculture and food. For example, Italy is currently leading the way in Europe in improving school cafeteria standards under the “Gaining Health” programme.
“The Ministry of Health has even set its own guidelines to promote a zero-mile approach, which means that schools have to source food locally. A model like this must be adopted here in the UK urgently,” added Mr Roberts.
“The lack of support for this scheme confirms a key fear with regard to the lack of support for agriculture from the UK government.
“As we approach the EU referendum, it has just become clearer how much support we could expect from our home government in regards to agriculture.
“If the Government is not in support of a scheme which promotes local produce then, how can we expect it to fully support our rural economies and protect domestic food security if we leave the EU?”