This really isn’t rocket science – as farmers, we all know that when it comes to disease, a healthy, well-fed plant or animal is less likely to be struck down.

Loads of fruit and veg in a healthy diet, combined with regular exercise, is a sure-fire way to keep most of us humans healthy.

The PM is late to the party, but at least he is finally recognising the carnage that obesity continues to wreak on the NHS. Half-a-dozen is the same as a pair of threes, I suppose, so we shouldn’t fret too much about the cause of the Damascene conversion.

It was coronavirus that nearly finished Mr Johnson off, whereas for years it has been another symptom of obesity that is causing the NHS to buckle under the financial strain.

Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of all diabetes cases, is directly connected to diet and weight. Some 90% of adults with type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight – 10% of the NHS budget is spent on diabetes.

That means just over £1bn is spent in Scotland on treating avoidable cases of diabetes each year, three times the budget for agriculture.

As someone who has made quite a lot of use of the NHS in the past few years, I won’t hear a bad word said against them. The care I have received has been exemplary, but Rishi Sunak’s magic money tree does have limits, and the NHS financial belt was on its last notch even before this pandemic.

According to a report by Audit Scotland, £13.4bn was spent on Health in 2018/19. Incredibly, that is 42% of the total budget. Yet only two out of eight key national waiting time targets were met in the same year.

Many people were already having to wait too long to be diagnosed with illnesses that might have been less severe or curable if they were caught earlier.

There is an understandable sensitivity about the subject. Mental health can be affected by having a high BMI and there are strong connections with being overweight to poverty and lack of prospects.

According to a Public Health Scotland report on health inequalities: “In 2015/'16, obesity risk was 7% in children in the least deprived areas, and nearly double that (13%) in the most deprived areas.” The gap is widening.

Consumption of fresh fruit and veg is well short of government targets – the last health survey by ScotGov was 2018 when '22% of adults met the five-a-day recommendation, which is fairly consistent with results since 2003. And, 10% did not consume any fruit or vegetables on previous day.

Some 15% of children met the five-a-day recommendation, while 10% did not consume any fruit or vegetables on previous day.

Average consumption of fruit and vegetables has remained fairly constant since 2008:

• Adults 3.2 portions

• Children 2.8 portions

This despite fruit and veg being cheaper than it has ever been and SRUC studies indicate that fruit and veg prices will rise in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Junk and highly processed food is often cheaper and nobody wants to dictate what people should and should not eat. However, when it gets to the point that the NHS can’t function properly because of this, the need for sensitivity surely has to take second place to urgent necessity for action.

Scotgov have set admirable targets. The sugar tax was a good start and has measurably reduced the level of sugar in fizzy drinks by 29%, but other snacks and junk foods were excluded. Nicola Sturgeon pledged to halve childhood obesity by 2030, but government statistics show that the percentage of children in Scotland who are overweight and in danger of obesity remains around 30%, as it has done since 1998. So much more needs to be done.

Various bodies have already advocated more restrictions on sugar in food, advertising snacks before the watershed etc, but I think there are other key areas to focus on as well.

Firstly, much more money needs to be pumped into teaching home economics in schools – ScotGov already provide a £20,000 bursary for retraining as a home economics teacher, but between 2007 and 2017, available teachers reduced from 990 to 786 in Scottish schools.

According to Tam Fry, of the Obesity Forum: “Many families are now totally reliant on convenience food … Until we get a grip and put cooking firmly back in the school curriculum we will have future generations equally dependent.”

Secondly, the marketing budget for fresh produce is pitiful. As things stand, the dice are loaded against us. According to the Food Foundation, £296.6m gets spent on confectionary, snacks, fruit, veg and soft drink marketing in the UK each year, yet only 5% of that is on fruit and veg.

They have lobbied for a veg advertising fund, made up of contributions from government, retailers and producers. British Summer Fruits, which is funded by a voluntary levy, represents 95% of UK soft fruit production, and has helped make the UK self-sufficient in soft fruit for six months of the year.

Veg producers should do the same, but it would be in Scotgov and retailers’ interest to contribute to this fund also if they want healthy citizens and customers.

Last but not least, in order to keep fruit and veg prices as low as possible to encourage the people who need it most but buy it least, Scottish and UK governments need to consider urgently ways to support fruit and veg producers, whether that is in match funding processing and development grants to producer organisations, to subsidising public procurement, or directly funding fruit and veg supply to those who need it most.

I don’t know how we growers can continue to supply cheap fruit and veg at the same price as it was 25 years ago without that support.

The National Horticultural Service is the vital first line of defence when it comes to the health of the nation. Our two governments urgently need to focus a little bit more on prevention – the cost would be infinitely less than it is for the cure.