Prime minister Rishi Sunak attends Farm to Fork Summit - Simon Dawson  No 10 Downing Street

Source: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Prime minister Rishi Sunak attends Farm to Fork Summit

Last year, Rishi Sunak made a commitment to the NFU to host a food summit. This week was a landmark moment as I walked into Downing Street with representatives from the whole food supply chain to discuss ways of building resilience and transparency from farm to fork.

The past 18 months has seen the UK food supply chain take a real battering – a stark reminder of how vulnerable the nation’s food security is. Whether you are a manufacturer, retailer, processor or farmer and grower, all of us have faced severe supply chain issues. These range from worker shortages to eye-watering inflation, which has led to shelves empty of eggs and the rationing of salad items – household staples that shoppers want to and should be able to buy.

Throughout it all, farm businesses have been doing everything they can to continue to produce safe, affordable and traceable food. But there are deeper issues within the supply chain that need urgently addressing, not least inflation and supply chain transparency.

That’s what this week’s summit at No 10 was all about. That the prime minister honoured the pledge he made to NFU members during the Conservative Party leadership hustings last summer to host the event, and the constructive and positive discussions which took place in Downing Street, have given me great heart. The government really has the power to make a difference, and the event was a demonstration of a government taking UK food security seriously.

For the NFU, it’s the culmination of months of hard work to put the importance of food security front and centre of the political agenda, and to ensure our government gets serious about British food. I was very lucky to speak with the prime minister before the event and I’m confident he ‘gets it’ and recognises the importance of a secure and resilient home-grown food system. After all, he represents a very rural constituency that has farming at its heart.

The commitments made by the government provide clarity and much-needed confidence for farmers and growers. These include reviews into the horticulture and egg supply chains, a £30m investment to unlock new technologies and a boost to export opportunities to get more British food on plates across the world, with five additional agri-food and drink attachés helping to take British food and drink global.

These actions recognise the critical importance of co-ordinated action within government departments. Only a joined-up plan across Whitehall will give farmers and growers the confidence to invest in their businesses, help them deal with resilience, provide fairness in the supply chain and enable farmers and growers to produce more of what we are good at and what the public wants.

It’s important these commitments from government are rolled out and built on in the months ahead. I’m also continuing to press for a commitment to maintain Britain’s food production self-sufficiency level at 60%, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels, and for the UK to adopt core production standards in its trade policy that will apply to any future trade deals.

Vitally, the farm to fork summit should become an annual event to ensure UK food security never drops down the political agenda, whichever party is in power. 

Above all, we need to be working together: the agriculture industry, supply chain and government, all aiming for the same outcome that enables Britain’s farmers and growers to continue to be world leaders in producing high-quality, safe and sustainable food.