FUTURE FOOD imports must meet the same high animal welfare and environmental standards in place on British farms, according to the public.

New research carried out in September by ComRes on behalf of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists found that of 2009 individuals surveyed, 84% of consumers support the view that imports should match British standards as Brexit threatens to open the door to imports from low cost producing, de-regulated markets across the globe.

Two-thirds of the public (62%) also agreed that UK farmers should receive financial support from the taxpayer to ensure a continued supply of food produced by British farmers post-Brexit – with only 10% disagreeing that support should be provided.

The research also revealed that the public still believed food production to be the primary purpose of UK farmers rather than carrying out environmental work, with two in five respondents (39%) agreeing.

BGAJ president Baroness Rosie Boycott said: “The results of this study are a stark reminder to government that the public values the high standards of British farming. There will always be countries able to produce cheaper food than Britain, but it always comes at a cost. It could be the safety of the food, the farmer, an animal or the environment,” she warned.

“With Brexit on the horizon, we’re on the brink of potentially seeing lower quality food imports flooding into the country. The survey resoundingly shows there’s no appetite for it and it’s the responsibility of government and the entire supply chain to put the safeguards in place to protect both British farmers and the consumer, whose heads may still be turned by attractive price deals in tough economic conditions, despite how they have responded,” she urged.

Dumfries and Galloway chilli grower Sheena Horner welcomed the survey results: "I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised when I read the survey results. We seem to read nothing but negativity around farming currently,” she said. “It was therefore heartening to see that the British public supports us, but there is still work to be done by us that produce food. As although the results were supportive there is definitely some areas that we can work harder in, especially in educating the general public on our share of profits from the food we produce.”

With the Brexit calendar altering daily, it is still unclear what and when new trade deals will be struck. Currently the UK boasts some of the highest standards of food production and safety in the world and doesn’t want to open itself to a flood of low welfare, cheaply produced goods which could undermine domestic food producers who cannot compete in terms of quantity.

Boris Johnson has made it well-known his enthusiasm to strike a trade deal with the US on exit from the EU, which has stirred up public concern and a media frenzy over the possibility of hormone-beef and chlorinated chicken making their way on to supermarket shelves.

Professor of Food Policy at the University of London, Tim Lang, said: “An overwhelming 84% want imported food to be of the same standard as home produced food. Gung-ho supporters of yoking the UK to the USA post Brexit should note this.

“The survey suggests the UK public almost certainly recognises the need for UK farming to tick lots of boxes. It’s got the message that farming is multi-functional. But have the politicians?”