Source: Number 10 Downing St 

More than 70 businesses and producers working in and supporting the food and farming industry attended the summit

The government has unveiled a fresh package of farm support alongside the first UK Food Security Index, and called on farmers and growers “to go further” to secure the nation’s food supplies.

Speaking ahead of today’s 10 Downing St Farm to Fork summit, Rishi Sunak said the first draft of the annual index would allow the government, industry and farmers to monitor the impacts of external factors, such as the Ukraine invasion or adverse weather.

First promised by the PM at the NFU Conference in February, the index also monitors domestic food production, land use, input costs and farmer productivity.

The index revealed the UK’s self-sufficiency was currently broadly stable across nine key indicators. However, it warned of a “longer-term risk from climate change”, citing the “the exceptionally wet winter and spring in 2024”, which posed “significant challenges to some domestic production”.

It was published alongside a new blueprint to grow the UK fruit & vegetable sector in order to reinforce food security, after the index revealed the UK only produced the equivalent of 17% of the fruit and 55% of the vegetables that end up on British plates.

As a result, the government has launched a new Horticulture Resilience and Growth offer to replace the retained EU scheme. 

Read more: Government announces long-term seasonal labour scheme and £50m automation push

Through this scheme, the government will double the amount of funding given to horticulture businesses compared with the current framework, taking funding to £80m per year.

Included in this amount was a £10m fund to help English orchard growers access equipment, technology and infrastructure to support the growing of apples.

The move was welcomed by Ali Capper, executive chair of British Apples & Pears who said growers would be “absolutely delighted with this much-needed announcement from the prime minister”.

This “fast-forwarding investment will give our sector the critical confidence it urgently needs right now”, she added. “The future of British orchards and the growth of British apple and pear volumes is definitely looking brighter today.”


Source: Getty Images

Included in the support package is a £10m fund to help English orchard growers access equipment, technology and infrastructure to support the growing of apples

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

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

“Come rain or shine, I will always back British farmers,” Sunak said.

“From feeding the nation to protecting our countryside, they are vital to the security and the fabric of our country,” he added. “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 home-grown products end up on our plates,” he said.

Read more: Wet weather could cut UK self-sufficiency by a tenth

To help combat the impact of adverse weather, the PM also set out how a £75m fund to support internal drainage boards (locally funded and operated public bodies responsible for water level management and managing flood risk), would be used to protect agricultural land from flooding.

“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,” he said.

It comes as more than 70 businesses and producers working and supporting the food and farming industry were expected to attend the Farm to Fork Summit today.

“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,” said environment secretary Steve Barclay.

“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 & vegetables on our plates all-year round.”

Read more: As business confidence collapses, what’s worrying farmers the most in new NFU survey?

The prime minister also pledged up to £3m towards supporting small and mobile abattoirs to support British farmers.

The summit additionally saw a promise to appoint a commissioner for the tenant farming sector this autumn, alongside a £72m fund for the Endemic Diseases Scheme to tackle health conditions in animals, and a £22m infrastructure grant for laying hens.

And following supply chain fairness reviews in key sectors, the government confirmed it would soon lay new regulations in parliament for eggs, fresh produce and pigs to ensure growers have reasonable and transparent contracts.

No 10 also used the summit announcements to confirm that former Ofcom and Financial Ombudsman Service official Richard Thompson had been appointed as the government’s first supply chain adjudicator, to ensure fairness in the supply chain was being effectively enforced. 

“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,” said Barclay.