PICTURE GALLERY - Farm to Fork Summit 2024: support for horticulture and publication of a new Food Security Index lead Downing Street pledges

Prime Minister says Government must ‘go further' to support farmers and 'secure the nation’s food supplies’

clock • 5 min read
Farm To Fork Summit 2024
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The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has used the second Downing Street Farm to Fork Summit to unveil a raft of measures designed to support farmers over the next 12 months.

The main measures introduced at the event, which was attended by more than 70 businesses and producers from across the farming and food sectors, included a blueprint to boost domestic horticultural production, publication of the UK's first Food Security Index and a commitment to appointing a Tenant Farming Commissioner in the autumn.

The new UK Food Security Index will set out how the Government will track UK-wide food security on an annual basis, monitoring domestic food production, land use, input costs and farmer productivity.

According to Downing Street, the index will allow the government, industry and farmers to monitor the impacts of external factors, such as Russia's barbaric invasion of Ukraine or extreme adverse weather events. 

This year's index, which revealed that the UK farming sector is at its most productive since records began, has been published alongside a new blueprint to grow the UK fruit and vegetable sector in order to reinforce the country's food security.

READ NOW: New entrants turn to pig farming in search of food security

The announcements were welcomed by many members of the industry with NFU president Tom Bradshaw saying it was good to see the Prime Minister putting food security at the top of the political agenda'.

Mr Bradshaw said: "Many of today's announcements are extremely welcome, particularly those long-term strategic ambitions around the launch of a UK Food Security Index and measures to boost the production of more British fruit and vegetables.

"But we cannot forget that our members have experienced the wettest eighteen months since 1836, including devastating flooding, and many are facing an acute short-term crisis."

Major summit announcements:

  • Up to £3 million towards supporting small and mobile abattoirs to support British farmers. 
  • A £72 million fund to 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.
  • A £22 million infrastructure grant for laying hens to help poultry farmers to improve the health, welfare and productivity of their flocks.
  • The government will also support farmers to get a fair price for their products by laying new regulations in Parliament for eggs, fresh produce and pigs, ensuring they have reasonable and transparent contracts. This follows similar action for the diary sector earlier this year. 

The Prime Minister also agreed to a review into the barriers the horticulture sector faces when upscaling their businesses, including promising to cut red tape around the building of glasshouses; a further £15 million will be invested into Genetic Improvement Networks to help boost access to more resilient crop varieties that require fewer inputs and cut farmer costs.

READ NOW: Baroness Rock - Government must end landlords' 'take it or leave it' attitude

Alongside this is a commitment made in response to the Rock Review into tenant farming and following a call for evidence, confirming the Government will appoint a Commissioner for the Tenant Farming Sector (CTFS) this autumn and a new supply chain adjudicator, Richard Thompson, will also be appointed, to ensure fairness in the supply chain is being effectively enforced. 

The weather was of course one of the main topics as the past 18 months have been the wettest on record in England, and second wettest six months across the UK. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "Come rain or shine, I will always back British farmers. From feeding the nation to protecting our countryside, they are vital to the security and the fabric of our country. 

"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."

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: "Food security is vital to our national security, which is why today's summit is so important, bringing together government and key representatives from the farming and food sector at Downing Street.

"This announcement will turbocharge the growth of our horticultural sector supporting the building of cutting-edge glasshouses and innovative farming techniques to put British fruit and vegetables on our plates all-year round.  

"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."

Chair of the EFRA Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, said: "We are pleased that today's summit sees the publication of the first UK Food Security Index, as my committee pushed for in its report. We urge the Government to keep its commitment to enshrine the requirement to publish the Index in law and to do so at the earliest opportunity.

"The farming sector works tirelessly to feed the nation and protect its natural environment, and I wholeheartedly welcome the PM's commitment to backing our British farmers. It is vital that farmers and agricultural industries are provided with the support they need to thrive, against the difficult conditions they are facing."

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Victoria Vyvyan also welcomed the measures and said: "It is pleasing to see the Prime Minister recognise the importance of food security and growing domestic production. The public expect greater self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables and farmers can provide it, but the government must ensure its plan is ambitious and workable.

"We call on the government to go a step further by developing a robust and bold plan for the rural economy as a whole. The rural economy is 19 per cent less productive than the national average, but closing that gap would add £43 billion to national GVA."

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