Farming needs support, says MP

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AN MP has made a call for more support for the farming and food industry, but has warned there are difficulties in recruiting skilled workers.

Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, spoke in the final Commons debate before the Christmas holiday.

She told members there has not been the growth of food exports in relation to imports and that in the past 10 years the country has imported nearly twice as much food relative to exports.

“I believe that agriculture and food need the same access as other industries to talented people and to capital, because that would help to generate more income from the food and farming industry.”

“It is a great industry and we need to encourage talented, qualified people to come to Norfolk to work in it,” she added.

Andrew Francis, senior farms manager at Elveden Estates, said Elveden actively supported placements for students and looked for local talent.

Its farms department supported two students on a yearly placement and another student worked elsewhere in the company.

Mr Francis said there was a perception that the industry was top heavy in its age profile.

“There’s deemed to be a potential shortage of succession in the industry on all levels. We are short on newcomers and skilled workers.

“Elveden tries to be proactive and give opportunities where there are young enthusiastic individuals.”

Mr Francis also said it was dangerous to rely so heavily on imports as it made the country vulnerable to political changes overseas.

“Food production and the industry is undervalued and there needs to be a higher profile and more active support,” he added.