Farm to Fork Summit: What has the Government promised?

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted the Farm to Fork Summit at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday 14 May, with stakeholders from across the entire agriculture and food production industry alongside cabinet ministers in attendance. Credit: Simon Walker/No 10 Downing Street
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted the Farm to Fork Summit at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday 14 May, with stakeholders from across the entire agriculture and food production industry alongside cabinet ministers in attendance. Credit: Simon Walker/No 10 Downing Street

Related tags Investment Agriculture Innovation Food security

Yesterday’s second Farm to Fork Summit saw Downing Street announce a series of measures to support farmers and grow the UK’s agri-food sector. Here’s the key takeaways…

The support unveiled at 2024 Farm to Fork Summit includes a new Blueprint for Growing the UK Fruit and Vegetable Sector, setting out how industry and UK Government can work together to increase domestic production and drive investment.

The plan involves ensuring the sector has access to affordable and sustainable energy and water, cutting red tape to make it easier to build glasshouses, and new investments into innovation. The latter will include making up to £10m available to help English orchard growers access equipment, technology and infrastructure to British fruit farming.

The summit also saw the publication of the inaugural Food Security Index – which has been introduced to help monitor short-term trends across the UK and strengthen the nation’s resilience.

Support for wet weather

Among the challenges currently facing farmers has been wet weather, and the summit saw the UK Government promise further support to manage this.

Alongside its previous commitment to extend the Farming Recovery Fund, it will be introducing temporary adjustments for farmers and land managers who have had trouble in carrying out the requirements of the Environmental Land Management Schemes as a result of wet conditions.

The AHDB estimates that 15% less land will be planted with wheat this year, and an estimated 558,000 hectares of arable land (12% of the British total) will remain fallow, up from 311,000 hectares last year.

There will also be £75m to support internal drainage boards to accelerate recovery from the winter 2023-24 storms and provide opportunities to modernise and upgrade assets that benefit and support resilience for farms and rural communities.

Precision Breeding

Also announced was the launch of the latest round of Genetic Improvement Networks. This will see up to £15m in funding over the next five years to improve breeding research.

Rebecca Laughton, horticulture campaign coordinator at the Landworkers’ Alliance, said that the additional spending will be helpful, but dismissed the money promised for the breeding research.

“While we welcome this additional spending, we still believe that a horticulture strategy is necessary to create a road map for the development of the horticulture sector that will give growers the confidence to invest in the future. 

“We can’t, however, support the investment of £15m into a Genetic Improvement Network. Instead, we urge the Government to look beyond the attraction of technological fixes, such as large glasshouses, automation and genetic improvements, and to invest in new entrant training, basic infrastructure and equipment, and fair distribution systems which would make our UK horticulture sector truly resilient.”

Supply chain fairness

Further action was also promised around supply chain fairness, with the UK Government stating it will introduce new regulations, specifically focused on fresh produce and eggs.

These rules will see that there are written agreements between producers and buyers of these commodities, with similar regulations for the pig sector to come ‘as soon as possible’.

To oversee the enforcement of the Fair Dealing regulations, an agricultural supply chain adjudicator has also been appointed.

Cold storage improvements

Work will also be explored to support long term cold storage for crops in the UK, enabling UK consumers to enjoy out of season producer; alongside the launch of £15m farm gate waste fund on 31 May 2024.

Animal welfare and abattoirs

Other pledges include the launch a new Endemics Disease Scheme with more than £72m of funding, and an Infrastructure Grant for Laying Hens with more than £20m of funding as part of the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway.

In addition, £3m has been promised to support new and mobile abattoirs through the Farming Investment Fund. This builds on the Small Abattoir Fund which opened last year to boost the sustainability and efficiency of red meat and poultry smaller abattoirs across England.

Farmers need immediate action

Whilst the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) president Tom Bradshaw has welcomed the announcements, he stressed the need for immediate support.

His cautionary words follow a survey issued by the NFU last week, which showed farmer confidence at a record low.

“It was good to return to Number 10 today to see and hear the Prime Minister champion British food production, putting it at the top of the national political agenda. Food security is national security,”​ 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.

“We are pleased that the government has taken on board our calls for a bigger and more accessible replacement for the EU Fruit and Veg Aid Scheme, and a commitment to legislate to improve contractual relationships.

“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.

“The NFU’s recent confidence survey revealed just how tough it is out there currently – the reality is that some farmers and growers believe they may not survive long enough to benefit from today’s announcements.”

He concluded that the NFU will be continuing to engage with ministers on further details needed for immediate relief, adding that “core standards for food imports also need to be part of the long-term offer”.

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