Prime minister Rishi Sunak last night announced the date of the general election as 4 July. The much-anticipated election will see both the incumbent Conservatives and Labour release manifestos as they vie for votes.

Reacting to the news, key bodies in the food, grocery and farming sectors set out their priorities for an incoming government on issues such as the supply chain, retail crime, labour shortages, inflation and health.

This article is being updated as reactions come in.

British Frozen Food Federation CEO Rupert Ashby:

“Our industry has a key role to play in tackling several of the key challenges that will be on the new government’s agenda. Easing the cost of living crisis, for example, encouraging healthier lifestyles, and meeting the UK’s environmental targets.

“We’re keen to see the new administration take action to support the industry in achieving these aims, and we’ve laid out the key priorities. They include reforming tax policies to make frozen foods more affordable, sustainable and accessible; investing in innovation; cutting red tape; developing a skilled workforce and improving public perception of frozen food.”

British Meat Processors Association CEO Nick Allen:

“If we want food security for a growing UK population, we need a smoothly functioning domestic food supply chain. Government policy can help or hinder that and will form part of the next government’s legacy.

“Currently the meat industry is struggling with new workforce legislation that is stifling our ability to fill skilled vacancies, and border controls that have added significant cost, making us less competitive on the world stage and hiking prices for UK shoppers.

“The British meat industry asks that policy makers consult with the on-the-ground industry experts who can help identify impacts and opportunities. We’d also like to see the different government departments and civil servants work more closely together to ensure there are no detrimental, unintended consequences for the food supply chain of future policy decisions.”

Cold Chain Federation CEO Phil Pluck:

“The general election on July 4th marks a real fork in the road for the food supply chain. The next government must provide new support to help tackle major food supply chain challenges and also to enable our industry to help spur national economic growth, hasten progress towards net zero and safeguard food supply. For example, a clear strategy for overcoming grid capacity restrictions at logistics sites is essential to overcoming this severe inhibition to green investment, and the next government must work alongside businesses on a forward-looking plan for the food chain labour market and skills development. 

“We are asking the parties campaigning to form the next government to include responsibility for the cold chain within the portfolio of a single government minister who be able to would spearhead cross-departmental work, enable rapid response to any threats to the integrity of perishable supply chains, and help ensure fulfilment of the temperature-controlled food supply chain’s great contribution to the economy, net zero and public health.”

Federation of Wholesale Distributors CEO James Bielby:

Wholesalers are the lifeblood of the nation – from supporting high street restaurants to supplying hospitals, schools and local retailers with food, the FWD membership is delivering for the people across the length and breadth of the UK.

“Our manifesto is an open invitation to candidates in all parties to work with us in the run-up to the election and beyond to ensure the wholesale sector can play a full and active role in driving future economic prosperity to every region in the UK.”

Logistics UK CEO David Wells: 

“Whether manufacturing or retail, healthcare or education, every part of our economy relies upon logistics to provide all the goods needed to generate business and growth. Innovative, integrated infrastructure backed by a national logistics network will deliver efficiencies and opportunities that can benefit us all. Giving logistics a voice at the heart of government would ensure that the needs of industry and business are heard, and that our sector can work with government to drive up the country’s productivity. 

“The public understands how vital logistics is and, rightly, does not think the government is doing enough to support the industry. Our sector, which services every part of the UK’s economy, would deliver up to £7.9bn per year in productivity-led growth if backed by the right government policies, as well as creating jobs and trading opportunities both domestically and overseas.

“The establishment of a cross-Whitehall Logistics Productivity Forum, led by a dedicated logistics and supply chain government minister, would ensure that benefits from our sector can be delivered to the whole economy.”

Kier Starmer NFU

Source: NFU

Keir Starmer at the NFU Conference in 2023

National Farmers Union president Tom Bradshaw:

“This general election may well be the most important in a generation for British food and farming. The stakes are very high. If the next government gets it right then this huge sector can grow, contributing even more to the UK economy, to the health and welfare of Britons and to the environment. But farming and growing is under huge pressure.

“Confidence is the currency that forms the foundation of feeding the country and it is currently at rock bottom; after months of devastating flooding, high production costs and low market returns, and against a backdrop of reformed farm support as we transition to a new domestic agriculture policy. Farmers and growers need the policies in place that will rebuild confidence and deliver a thriving, profitable farming sector delivering for food security as a key part of our national security.

“The NFU will be engaging with candidates from all political parties over the coming weeks to promote our election manifesto and ensure every prospective MP understands the importance of boosting home-grown food production as well as the work farmers and growers carry out 365 days a year caring for the environment, providing a home for nature and providing solutions to the challenges of climate change. 

“What farmers, growers and the public need to see is practical policies which invest in a future where Britain’s farmers and growers can continue producing sustainable, affordable food, driving forward economic growth, providing jobs, and delivering on the nation’s environmental ambitions.”

National Sheep Association CEO Phil Stocker:

“Sheep farmers, like others, need some stability and a clear future direction, accepting that we are working in a world where change is inevitable and, in many cases, desirable. The UK agricultural sector is already on a trajectory towards more sustainable farming, where food production has become recognised as more important, without taking away the need for better natural resource protection, helping to tackle climate change, and providing for nature within a farmed landscape.

“There is nothing I hear from the Labour Party to suggest that if there were to be a political change, that we would see a change of direction and that has to be good suggesting no major deviation whatever the election result. NSA has worked hard to grow relationships with both the major political parties so they understand the opportunities and the barriers faced by sheep farmers and I feel we have done that with some success.”

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls:

“Hospitality businesses lie at the heart of every constituency in the country. In serving Britain, the sector creates places where people want to live, work and invest.

“We need to see all political parties recognise this and will be working hard on behalf of our members during this period, to ensure manifestos from across the political spectrum reflect the strategic importance of our sector.

“We need to see evidence of measures that can unlock the potential of our sector to do even more. These include promises of action to lower the tax burden on our industry, initiatives that give us greater access to workers, and other measures that will support us in creating more jobs and further upskilling the workforce.”

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis:

“Usdaw welcomes that the general election has been called for Thursday 4 July. It finally gives our members the chance to vote for the change they so desperately need after 14 years of austerity, chaos and the Tories’ cost of living crisis.

“We are urging our members to vote Labour for a new deal for workers, action on retail crime and support for struggling high streets.

“The past 14 years have shown what a Tory Britain looks like: austerity that cruelly targets the most vulnerable people in our communities; relentless attacks on workers’ and trade union rights that creates more insecure work; chaotic economics that caused a deeply damaging cost of living crisis, and the effective decriminalisation of shoplifting that blights our struggling retail industry.

“We’ve all had enough. That’s why Usdaw is campaigning for a Labour government. A vote for the Conservatives is not a vote for working people, their families or their communities. It is only the Labour Party that will bring the changes that working people need.”

Wine and Spirit Trade Association CEO Miles Beale:

“It is essential that the next government recognises and values the economic importance of the UK’s wine and spirit sector. The WSTA will work closely with any government that wants to support economic growth and job creation. And where the contribution of the sector is recognised and valued it should follow that its businesses should be appropriately and proportionately taxed and regulated.

“The election provides the opportunity to reset how we work with a new government. The WSTA and the businesses we represent want to work more closely with a new government – of whatever political hue – that has clear goals and a fresh mandate. In particular we want to see a change in the way government and business work together. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that Government engagement with industry is patchy and inconsistent. Some government departments are better at it than others, while some seem actively to disregard the views of business - even where they are essential to delivering change.

“We hope and expect to work closely with ministers, advisers and officials on the new government’s plans to achieve economic growth, improved environmental outcomes and greater social responsibility.”