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Downing Street summit - Sunak pledges to put farmer' interest at heart of trade policy

16th May 2023 / By Alistair Driver

Rishi Sunak has promised that farmers’ interests will be put at the heart of future trade policy, ahead of today's Downing Street Farm to Fork Summit. 

Rishi SunakThe Prime Minister unveiled a range of commitments to support the food and farming industry, as representatives from across the supply chain, including NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson, headed to No 10 for a summit aimed at identifying ways to boost growth, drive innovation and improve sustainability. 

The package also included support to boost domestic fruit and veg production and new investment in technologies. 

In a bid to boost trade and export opportunities, the package included: 

  • Farmers’ interests will be put at the heart of trade policy through a new framework for trade negotiations, committing to protect the UK’s high food and welfare standards and prioritise new export opportunities. The Prime Minister has written an open letter to farmers today setting out how these new principles will help the industry benefit from the trade opportunities available to us outside the EU.
  • The Government will invest £2m to boost our programme of global trade shows and missions, as well as providing £1.6m for the GREAT food and drink campaign.
  • It will build on the UK's existing overseas network with five additional agri-food and drink attaches who will spearhead the removal of restrictive market barriers

The government will aim to unlock the benefits of innovative technologies to strengthen our food security, cementing the UK’s leadership in this field through:

  • Up to £30 million of investment to drive forward the use of precision breeding technologies, building on the £8 million already invested over the last five years and the passing of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act earlier this year
  • The creation of a new working group – bringing together plant breeders, food manufacturers and retailers – to get produce from farms to the shelves.

The government said it will protect the interests of farmers by making sure they get a fair price for their produce, highlighting the use of new powers under the Agriculture Act to improve transparency and contracts in the pork and dairy market and announcing additional reviews into fairness in the horticulture and egg supply chains.

It also pledged that 'recognising the unique role and needs of the sector, and listening to the calls from the NFU, FDF and others', the Grocery Code Adjudicator will not be merged with the Competition and Markets Authority, in recognition of its importance in ensuring our food supply chains function as they should.

This was alongside general policy initiatives, including plans to cut the red tape currently holding farmers back from delivering projects on their land to diversify their incomes, such as repurposing farm buildings to use as shops, with a call for evidence later this year.

There will be a focus on increasing water security by accelerating work on water supply infrastructure, so that farmers can count on steady access to water, including in periods of intense dry weather.

Backing British farmers

Mr Sunak said: “I will always back British farmers, and I pay tribute to their hard work and dedication all year round which keeps shelves stocked and food on our tables.

“Supporting our farmers and food producers must, and always will be, at the heart of our plans to grow the economy and build a more prosperous country.

“That’s why I’m proud to host this summit, and working together, I’m determined to build resilience, strengthen our food security and champion the best of British at home and overseas.”

Lizzie Wilson said the event will be a 'fantastic opportunity to raise some of the key issues we face as an industry at the very highest levels of Government, and also to discuss with key people from across food and farming how we can work together to build a more functional and sustainable supply chain'.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Prime Minister has honoured the commitments he made when he addressed our hustings event back in the summer to hold this food summit at Number 10, and we welcome the announcements made today.

“They show a recognition and an understanding of the strategic importance of British food and farming to the nation."