What has Boris Johnson been doing in Cornwall today?

Boris Johnson trims a courgette after it picking it from a field in Cornwall Credit: PA

A Cornish food producer has called on the prime minister to 'act now' to protect the industry from disappearing during his visit to Cornwall.

Boris Johnson joined vegetable pickers on a farm in Cornwall this morning (Monday 13 June), to launch the government's new food strategy.

The PM then went onto try out driving a tractor he dubbed "unbelievable" and "fantastic", before trying his hand at weighing and packing broccoli at a packaging plant, something he deemed to be "hard work".

But it was food producers in Cornwall who said the prime minister had the hardest work to do, saying "the government has got to support us to keep us going" or else "the UK agricultural and horticultural industry will disappear".

The Prime Minister praised workers at a Cornish broccoli packaging factory and said "it's a lot of work"

Managing director of Hayle-based company Riviera Produce David Simmons said: "Words are cheap, at the end of the day actions are what counts and the government has got to act now, if it doesn’t act now the UK agricultural and horticultural industry will disappear, it’s that serious now.

"The government has got to support us to keep us going."

'Nothing really there on health'

The call for support came as Johnson launched the UK's first ever food strategy on the farm in Cornwall.

He pledged the blueprint will "back farmers" and strengthen the resilience of the nation by increasing domestic production, so “we will grow and eat more of our own food”, to help guard against future economic shocks and crises.

But the government’s food tsar said the response to his wide-ranging review of the system fell short of what was needed.

The Prime Minister was in the Duchy to launch the UK's first ever food strategy Credit: PA

Leon restaurant co-founder Henry Dimbleby told The Guardian the document was "not a strategy", saying: "It doesn’t set out a clear vision as to why we have the problems we have now and it doesn’t set out what needs to be done."

Mr Dimbleby added: "There was nothing really there on health."

Boris Johnson defended the strategy while in Cornwall, and said it will reduce the cost of food for buyers across the country.

"I've just been talking to these incredible courgette famers, and broccoli," he said.

"They've got a machine, a gizmo they just showed me, that can plant 150,000 cabbages per day. Now that cuts costs and what it also does is it, in the end, it cuts costs for the consumers as well."

Johnson tried driving a tractor that can plant 150,000 cabbages a day

David Simmons, the food producer from Hayle, also said farmers in Cornwall would embrace being given the ability to reduce costs.

He said: "I think there are tremendous opportunities here now.

"I think we’ve got to be looking at ways in which we can perhaps extend the UK season, ways in which we can take imports out of the equation and produce more UK food because we’re quite capable of doing it, we just need the encouragement to do it.”

Courgettes, broccoli and an 'unbelievable' tractor: Boris Johnson's morning in Cornwall

The PM was shown how to look under the leaves, select the ready courgettes, twist and turn the vegetables and place them in crates at the back of a tractor moving slowly across the field.

“Beautiful shiny courgettes,” he exclaimed.

“They’re very prolific, aren’t they?”

But the prime minister was told to pick up the speed as he picked courgettes alongside a dozen farm workers.

Wearing a high-vis vest, Johnson chatted to the workers as they picked.

Boris was told to speed up when picking courgettes before he moved on to driving a tractor through the field in Cornwall

After they told him they hailed from Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Lithuania and were speaking Russian, Mr Johnson asked what the Russian word for courgette is.

After he picked several vegetables, the farm worker showing him the ropes said: “Once you get used to it you can go a little faster.”

The PM then drove a tractor slowly over a courgette field and was shown a modern vegetable planting machine on the Cornish farm.

Johnson got into the cab and was shown how to operate the vehicle, moving it very slowly forward as courgette pickers followed behind, sorting the vegetables into crates at the back.

The farmer then showed Mr Johnson a machine capable of planting 150,000 plants a day, saying it is much more efficient than traditional planting techniques.

“So you can plant a lot of cabbage,” the prime minister said, describing it as “unbelievable” and “fantastic”.

'It's a lot of work'

He then praised farm staff doing “hard work” after he sorted broccoli in a vegetable packaging plant in Cornwall.

Wearing a white coat and hat in the chilled hall, the Prime Minister was shown how to gather a bunch of long-stem broccoli, trim the ends and weigh it.

“Oh, it’s way short,” he said of his bunch as he placed it on the scale, reaching to add more stems.

“How do you keep your hands warm?” Mr Johnson asked, to which a plant worker replied: “Speed.”

After asking where the workers came from, the prime minister was told many are from Lithuania and Ukraine, with more due to arrive from the war-torn country.

After laying broccoli crowns on to a conveyor belt to be wrapped in plastic, he said: “It’s a lot of work.”

  • Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.