Government unveils raft of pledges to boost UK farming amid food summit

A new package of support has been set out by the Prime Minister ahead of a summit hosted at Downing Street today
A new package of support has been set out by the Prime Minister ahead of a summit hosted at Downing Street today

The government has pledged to commit to farmers' interests in future trade deals, as well as boost UK fruit and vegetable production, as part of a new package of support.

The raft of pledges has been set out by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of the Farm to Fork Summit hosted at Downing Street today (16 May).

Representatives from the UK food supply chain, including from the farming industry, will identify ways to boost growth and drive innovation amid soaring inflation, labour issues and post-Brexit uncertainty.

Ahead of the summit, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he "will always back British farmers".

He said: "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.”

As part of the support measures, the government said farmers’ interests would be "put at the heart of trade policy" through a new framework for trade talks.

The Prime Minister has written an open letter to farmers setting out how these new principles will help the industry benefit from trade opportunities.

The government has also announced up to £30 million of investment to drive forward the use of precision breeding technologies.

And a new working group – bringing together plant breeders, food manufacturers and retailers – will help to get produce from farms to the shelves.

NFU President Minette Batters said the raft of measures "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," she added.

"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.”

The government has also announced that 45,000 visas will be available again to the horticulture sector next year, a sector which has seen crippling workforce issues.

And additional reviews will be undertaken into fairness in the horticulture and egg supply chains, in light of the impact of global challenges on these sectors in particular.

Defra Secretary Thérèse Coffey said the package of measures announced ahead of the summit aimed to boost "every element of the food supply chain, from farm to fork."

“I am delighted that today we have embarked on our next step to back British farmers and ensure a thriving food and drink sector," she said.

"I look forward to working together, right across the food supply chain, to boost growth, innovation and sustainability.”