Sunak pledges to track UK-wide food security issues on annual basis

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled a package of measures to boost the farming industry (Photo:
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled a package of measures to boost the farming industry (Photo:

The government has promised a new index that will track UK-wide food security issues on an annual basis as part of a substantial package of support unveiled today.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made the pledge at today's Farm to Fork summit in Number 10 following an extremely wet few months which has severely dented farmer confidence.

The first draft of the UK Food Security Index will allow the government and farmers to monitor the impacts of external factors, such as adverse weather and war.

It will set out how government will track UK-wide food security on an annual basis, monitoring domestic food production, land use, input costs and farmer productivity.

The Index highlights that currently the UK produces the equivalent of just 17% of the fruit and 55% of the vegetables that end up on British plates, significantly lagging behind meat, dairy and grains.

The prime minister also said at today's summit that he wants the government to help the horticulture sector to go further to tackle this challenge.

As part of this, a new Horticulture Resilience and Growth offer, which will replace the retained EU scheme, will be rolled out.

Through this new scheme, the government will look to double the amount of funding given to horticulture businesses compared to the current scheme.

This would take it to £80m per year, including making up to £10m available to help English orchard growers access equipment, technology and infrastructure.

Mr Sunak also launched a review into the barriers the horticulture sector is facing to upscale their businesses, including promising to cut red tape around the building of glasshouses.

And a further £15m will be invested into Genetic Improvement Networks to help boost access to more resilient crop varieties that require fewer inputs and cut farmer costs.

Mr Sunak said: “This package of support will help farmers produce more British food, delivers on our long-term plan to invest in our rural communities, and ensures the very best of our homegrown products end up on our plates.

“I know for many farmers, the impact of adverse weather in recent months has made working the land even harder, but my message is clear, our support for you is unwavering and we will be with you every step of the way.”

More than 70 businesses and producers working and supporting the food and farming industry attended today's Farm to Fork Summit.

They discussed the challenges facing the sector, including adverse weather conditions and concerns around post-Brexit arrangements.

According to a recent NFU survey, the confidence of farmers is at an all-time low, with fears that this could lead to a decrease in food production.

Because of this lack of confidence, production intentions have also plummeted, with all farming sectors expecting to decrease production over the next year.

But Defra Secretary Steve Barclay said today that food security was 'vital to our national security'.

"We will continue to invest in and support farmers to produce the best of British food to strengthen our food security, championing innovation in the sector.”

The prime minister also used today's summit to announce a fund of up to £3m towards supporting small and mobile abattoirs.

He also unveiled a £72m fund for the Endemics Diseases Scheme, which will help eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea in cattle, control porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in pigs and tackle a range of different health conditions in sheep.

And a £22m infrastructure grant was announced for laying hens to help poultry farmers to improve the health, welfare and productivity of their flocks.