Farmers will benefit from a commitment to protect their interests in future trade deals, support to boost domestic fruit and veg production and new investment in technologies, thanks to a package of support set out by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a summit hosted at Downing Street today (16 May 2023).
Representatives from the whole food supply chain will come together at No10 for the UK Farm to Fork Summit, to identify ways to boost growth, drive innovation and improve sustainability, fulfilling a commitment made by the Prime Minister last Summer to host the event as part of his pledge to back British farmers.
Ahead of the Summit, government confirmed a range of measures to help strengthen the long-term resilience and sustainability of the sector and provide greater stability for farmers following a difficult period caused by global challenges, including the illegal invasion of Ukraine which has contributed to rising costs.
To give further certainty to the sector, government also announced that 45,000 visas will be available again to the horticulture sector next year, enabling them to plan ahead for the picking season.
Attendees at the Summit will include senior representatives in the UK’s farming, horticulture and agri-food sectors.
The event will look at how government and industry can work together to increase investment, innovation and sustainability and support the long-term resilience at every stage of the food system, from farming to manufacturing, distribution and retail, and feature discussions on a set of key themes alongside a showcase of great British food and drink businesses and innovators.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
“I will always back British farmers, and I pay tribute to their hard work and dedication all year round which keeps shelves stocked and food on our tables.
“Supporting our farmers and food producers must, and always will be, at the heart of our plans to grow the economy and build a more prosperous country.
“That’s why I’m proud to host this summit, and working together, I’m determined to build resilience, strengthen our food security and champion the best of British at home and overseas.”
Secretary of State for Food and Farming Thérèse Coffey said:
“Food production is the primary purpose of farming, and our world-leading farmers and food producers work tirelessly day-in-day-out to keep the nation fed, despite global challenges including the illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“I am delighted that today we have embarked on our next step to back British farmers and ensure a thriving food and drink sector which will see more British produce on supermarket shelves and plates both in the UK and across the globe. I look forward to working together, right across the food supply chain, to boost growth, innovation and sustainability.”
The package of measures announced ahead of the summit aims to boost every element of the food supply chain, from farm to fork, and promote the UK’s world-renowned produce around the world to help boost British businesses and grow the economy.
NFU President Minette Batters said:
“I am absolutely delighted that the Prime Minister has honoured the commitments he made when he addressed our hustings event back in the summer to hold this food summit at Number 10, and we welcome the announcements made today.
“They show a recognition and an understanding of the strategic importance of British food and farming to the nation.
“These actions recognise the importance of coordinated action across government to support confidence, investment and growth in British food. We look forward to working with the Prime Minister, the Defra Secretary and the rest of the cabinet to Back British farming and bolster our domestic food security.”
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said:
“It’s fantastic that the Prime Minister is convening the breadth of the food supply chain, from farm to fork, at his summit today and showcasing our superb hospitality offering here in the UK to highlight iconic produce and brands.
“Hospitality in the UK is recognised as one of the finest in the world and is frequently the launchpad to propel British products and brands to markets abroad. Further investment into the GREAT campaign is welcome news and, in addition to boosting exports, will help to promote the UK as a tourist destination and boost our hospitality venues.
“Hospitality plays a huge role in keeping the nation fed, whether it be through our restaurants and pubs or public sector catering in schools, hospitals and the armed forces, and I’m looking forward to discussing how we can all work together to overcome current challenges and grasp future opportunities.”
To boost trade and export opportunities to get more British food on plates across the world, building on the £24 billion a year generated by our food and drink exports, the government has confirmed that:
- Farmers’ interests will be put at the heart of trade policy through a new framework for trade negotiations, committing to protect the UK’s high food and welfare standards and prioritise new export opportunities. The Prime Minister has written an open letter to farmers today setting out how these new principles will help the industry benefit from the trade opportunities available to us outside the EU.
- We will invest £2m to boost our programme of global trade shows and missions, as well as providing £1.6m for the GREAT food and drink campaign.
- We will build on our existing overseas network with five additional agri-food and drink attaches who will spearhead the removal of restrictive market barriers
- We will extend funding to promote seafood exports around the world with an extra £1 million between 2025 and 2028, and create a new bespoke £1m programme to help dairy businesses, particularly SMEs, to seize export opportunities, particularly in the Asia pacific region.
The government will unlock the benefits of innovative technologies to strengthen our food security, cementing the UK’s leadership in this field through:
- Up to £30 million of investment to drive forward the use of precision breeding technologies, building on the £8 million already invested over the last five years and the passing of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act earlier this year
- The creation of a new working group – bringing together plant breeders, food manufacturers and retailers – to get produce from farms to the shelves.
The government will protect the interests of farmers by making sure they get a fair price for their produce:
- We are already using new powers under the Agriculture Act to improve transparency and contracts in the pork and dairy markets;
- We are now announcing additional reviews into fairness in the horticulture and egg supply chains, in light of the impact of global challenges on these sectors in particular.
- Recognising the unique role and needs of the sector, and listening to the calls from the NFU, FDF and others, the Grocery Code Adjudicator will not be merged with the Competition and Markets Authority, in recognition of its importance in ensuring our food supply chains function as they should.
The horticulture sector is worth £5 billion across the UK and the government will support the industry to boost production and extend the growing season by:
- Confirming we will improve future support for horticulture by replacing the retained EU Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organisation Scheme when it closes in 2026 with an expanded offer as part of our new farming payment schemes.
- This will be tailored to the needs of our domestic growers and will be more inclusive than the EU scheme, ensuring it is a good offer for glasshouses as well as other growers.
- Helping the controlled horticulture sector overcome barriers to accessing government schemes, including by looking at how the sector is classified
- Making it easier to build new glasshouses through changes to national planning policy
Further announcements to increase the resilience of the sector and support its growth include:
- Plans to cut the red tape currently holding farmers back from delivering projects on their land to diversify their incomes, such as repurposing farm buildings to use as shops, with a call for evidence later this year.
- Increasing water security by accelerating work on water supply infrastructure, so that farmers can count on steady access to water, including in periods of intense dry weather.
The event will also build on progress made since the launch of the government’s Food Strategy last year, which committed to broadly maintain levels of domestic food production.
This includes sustainably boosting production in sectors such as horticulture and seafood, where there are opportunities to grow outside the EU.
It also set out a range of measures to back our farmers by helping to support domestic production, spread jobs and grow the economy, alongside the work of the UK Agriculture Partnership which brings together key stakeholders from across the UK to identify how to address shared issues facing the agricultural sector.
Also today, 22 innovative and ground-breaking projects have been awarded a share of £6.2 million of funding through the Seafood Innovation Fund, as part of the government’s UK Seafood Fund.
The winning projects will enhance the UK seafood sector’s productivity and sustainability, ranging from an on-land cultivation system for seaweed, to cutting-edge packaging developments that improve the shelf life of seafood.
Sources: THX News, Prime Minister’s Office – 10 Downing Street, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, & The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP.