First Farm to Fork Summit provides positive outlook for UK food security, NFU says

First Farm to Fork Summit provides positive outlook for UK food security, NFU says

The first Farm to Fork Summit held at Number 10 Downing Street provides a positive outlook for UK food security and demonstrates that domestic self-sufficiency is back on the political agenda, the NFU has said.

As the very first food summit of its kind, this has been a culmination of over a year’s worth of work and campaigning by the NFU, who asked the Prime Minister to convene the whole supply chain together to discuss the vital measures needed to build resilience and transparency from farm to fork and strengthen productivity.

This work and campaigning has included:

  • Writing letters to both candidates for the Conservative party leadership election in August 2022, calling for food security to be taken seriously across Whitehall. 
  • Holding hustings events with the candidates and NFU members, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak committed to monitoring food self-sufficiency and hold a food summit if he was elected.
  • Securing the recruitment of eight new agri-food attachés overseas which will help drive exports of British food abroad and break down barriers in a number of countries. 
  • Convening an emergency press conference calling for fairness for farmers and growers and asking government to investigate whether an exceptional market conditions declaration should be made given the empty shelves seen in supermarkets.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Prime Minister has delivered on the commitment he made to NFU members last year to host this summit. The number of Cabinet Ministers present shows the ambition for cross-departmental coordination to deliver measures to boost home-grown food production. Many of the farmers and growers I represent will be relieved to see UK food security being taken seriously by the government.

“The announcements made today show a recognition and an understanding of the strategic importance of British food and farming to the nation. And the actions recognise the importance of coordinated action across government to support confidence, investment and growth in British food.

“What we need now is to build on these announcements. We are calling for a set of core agri-food import standards for trade. Whilst it is pleasing government is looking to maintain self-sufficiency at 60%, we believe there’s an opportunity to produce much more of our own food here. We can and should be more ambitious and look to move beyond this target. Vitally, the Farm to Fork Summit should become an annual event, as our food supply is part of the UK’s national infrastructure and will ensure that food security never drops down the political agenda, across all parties, again.”

BPC reaction

BPC chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “We welcome Government re-engaging with food issues at a time it matters more than ever. It is positive that we see recognition of the world-class production standards our members operate to, combined with a focus on overcoming trade barriers. This is a good starting point to be working from.

“Poultry is half the meat the nation eats. There are still issues requiring Government to flex much-needed leadership, particularly towards exceptional market conditions. We look forward to hearing more detail and continuing our work with Government to ensure fair and resilient supply chains, where our members “have what they need” to fulfil their role in society.”

In recent weeks BPC has highlighted the impact rising production costs pose to national food security, where focusing solely on keeping food affordable without a fair price for producers or robust mechanisms to support business viability is forcing production to scale back.

Griffiths added: “Today’s commitments must lead to real tangible change, where ‘food security’ translates into meaningful objectives that support British poultry meat producers in ensuring safe, affordable, nutritious, low impact food. Today has been a crucial first step towards building effective solutions with industry colleagues to prioritise a sustainable food system for all. We must now ensure that this doesn’t pivot into a sidestep around the big issues we are waiting for more detail on.”

Scotland perspective

Speaking after attending the summit, NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said: “This summit must be viewed by the UK Government as the start of an annual process that recognises the importance of domestic food production and puts robust measures in place to ensure the whole food supply chain, from farm to fork, takes positive steps to address the significant shortfalls that we currently see around the nation’s food security.

“I commend the Prime Minister for ensuring that all those with a stake in delivering sustainable and transparent food supply chains were present – farmers, processors, major retailers, Cabinet Ministers and Secretaries of State – giving this the potential to be a major stepping stone.  That momentum must not be lost, and progress must be regularly reviewed.

“The event brought a sharp focus on the importance of domestic production and the need for change.  All in the room needed to appreciate that recent events, including empty supermarket shelves, means that food can no longer be produced for prices that are below the cost of production.

“The solution is clear.  If you’re looking to secure domestic food production, it starts by supporting the primary producer in the face of rising input costs and volatile output prices, poorly negotiated trade agreements and supply chain inequities.

“The commitment to a wider, accelerated use of the UK Agriculture Act to deliver fairness and equity in horticultural and egg supply chains, building on the work started on pigs and dairy, is something for us to welcome and pursue.

“The summit also presented an opportunity to raise the huge challenges we continue to face. A commitment that the 45,000 seasonal worker visas available this season could be extended is welcome, but our growers need long term commitment from the UK Government to this scheme to allow them to plan ahead.  It also remains hugely disappointing that our farmers and growers will not benefit from the highest levels of relief on energy despite the huge costs now associated with rearing, growing and storing produce.  That decision needs to be reversed or farmers and growers will simply cut production to limit losses and our food security will deteriorate, undermining the amount of good work today’s summit achieved.”

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