Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently held a Farm to Fork Summit at Number 10 Downing Street to discuss domestic food security, writes NFU Cymru President Aled Jones.
.NFU President Minette Batters and I were delighted to be invited to attend the summit which provided a positive outlook for UK food security and demonstrated that domestic self-sufficiency is back on the political agenda.
As the very first food summit of its kind, this has been a culmination of over a year’s worth of work and campaigning by the NFU, who asked the Prime Minister to convene the whole supply chain together to discuss the vital measures needed to build resilience and transparency from farm to fork and strengthen productivity.
It was pleasing to hear reassuring words from the Prime Minister on the commitment to care for the farming and food processing industry in this country. There was commitment to having an additional five trade attachés appointed in countries around the world, in addition to the 11 announced last year, which is a positive move.
There was also a commitment to address the confidence in the industry which has been damaged considerably in the last two years.
The message was made loud and clear to the Prime Minister that if we allow our food productive capacity to reduce it has a knock-on effect for the next 20–30 years.
The Prime Minister also wrote an open letter to farmers outlining the government’s six principles to ensure British farming is at the heart of British trade.
These included positive commitments such as protecting UK food standards under all existing and future free trade agreements; prioritising new export opportunities for UK food and drink and removing market access barriers to make it easier for food producers to enter new markets.
The announcements made show a recognition and an understanding of the strategic importance of British food and farming to the nation. And the actions recognise the importance of coordinated action across government to support confidence, investment and growth in British food.
We now need to build on these announcements. We are calling for a set of core agri-food import standards for trade.
Whilst it is pleasing government is looking to maintain self-sufficiency at 60 per cent, we believe there’s an opportunity to produce much more of our own food here. We can and should be more ambitious and look to move beyond this target.
Vitally, the Farm to Fork Summit should become an annual event, as our food supply is part of the UK’s national infrastructure and will ensure that food security never drops down the political agenda, across all parties, again.