Speaking ahead of today’s meeting (16 May), a number of food and farming organisations signed a joint document detailing the takeaways they hoped to hear from the summit.
Led by Sustain deputy chief secretary Ben Reynolds, the letter questioned why a number of key players in the industry had not been invited to the summit and feared it risked missing the opportunity to build effective solutions which tackle the broad range of challenges facing the food and farming system.
"We are pleased that the Prime Minister intends to focus on food price inflation at his food security summit,” read the letter. “But this is not a question of food prices alone. While consumers struggle to pay for their weekly shop, farmers are faring badly too; our research shows they make less than 1% of profit from their produce due to unfair and extractive supply chains.
“Yet a relatively small number of companies processing, manufacturing and selling us food make multi-million-pound profit announcements and returns to shareholders. Government intervention is urgently needed. Leaving our food security to the private sector has resulted in us becoming a nation dependent on junk food which is making us sick, rather than nutritious food which can help us live long, healthy lives.
“Food security is more than ensuring the shelves are filled or even the rate of inflation; it’s about ensuring we all have access to healthy, nutritious and high welfare food, and that we can all benefit from the best of British produce.”
The signatories accused the Government of side stepping the problem and were baffled that ministers were holding a food security summit a month after they dropped their commitment to developing a horticulture strategy and while uncertainty remains over the environmental land management schemes that farmers need.
Threatening the supply chain
“Currently we import 32% of our fruit and vegetables from areas defined as climate vulnerable, and 54% from countries likely to face high water scarcity by 2040, threatening the resilience of our supply chains,” the letter continued. “British farmers urgently need better protection and support to produce the healthy, sustainable fruit and vegetables we need for a nutritious diet, while restoring biodiversity and capturing carbon.
“Food security is long overdue prime-ministerial leadership but it risks being only symbolic without resulting in meaningful change. The Government cannot continue to outsource this issue to big food manufacturers who externalise the costs of food production and develop ever more ingenious ways to sell us junk food or to retailers who leave our farmers with so little.”
The letter called for five key takeaways from today’s summit: a plan to secure a reliable supply if healthy, fairly traded and nutritious food; how best to use our land to create resilient, climate and nature friendly farming; how to support British horticulture; a fair deal for farmers and farm workers; rebalancing prices and availability of nutritious food; and setting core environmental and animal welfare standards for domestic and imported food.