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Business of Food

Farm to Fork Summit an ’empty meeting’ say food and farming representatives

young woman with glasses smiling
3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak standing at podium in front of background image showing wheat fields in shape of Union Jack

Image credit: Number 10

A series of promises but little definitive action was delivered at the Farm to Fork Summit held by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street yesterday [16.05.2023], according to some attendees.

A trade body representative attending the event told The Guardian that the Farm to Fork Summit was an empty meeting” designed to allow the Conservatives to show they support farmers.

The food summit was also criticised for its lack of action around food inflation. “If you are not doing something about the cost of living, cost of production, access to labour and affordability of food then you are never going to fix the overall problem,” another attendee explained to the paper.

Measures mentioned in the farmers support package took prominence at the summit. With regards to developing fairer supply chains, the Government said it will introduce new regulations for the dairy sector in parliament later this year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with Kaleb Cooper and Charlie Ireland who star in Television show Clarkson’s Farm

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with Kaleb Cooper and Charlie Ireland who star in Television show Clarkson’s Farm

Some £12.5 million will be made available from May for research projects focussed on boosting environmental sustainability and resilience on farms. The Fruit & Vegetables Aid Scheme for England is also to be replaced from 2026, being expanded to allow more growers to access investment.

Another topic covered was boosting exports, with the Government announcing plans to publish regular analysis on priority market access barriers. Promises were also made to place British farming and produce at the forefront of the country’s trade, as well as ensuring that chlorinated chicken and growth hormone-fed beef would continue to not be allowed to be sold in the UK.

Plans to explore how to increase resource efficiency in the food sector were also mentioned, with industrial and power waste heat as a thermal energy source for glasshouses being given as an example.

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw told The Guardian the union saw the event as “a big step forwards” for “putting food security on par with energy security”. However, not everyone has been so positive, with Lee Stiles, Secretary of the glasshouse growers’ trade body Lea Valley Growers’ Association, describing it as “a PR stunt”.

Richard Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Poultry Council told the paper that “there needs to be more attention on how we and the government promote British food.” He also added that mentioning plans to boost international food trade without addressing the problem of inflation was akin to “taking one corner of a big problem and trying to fix it without reference to the rest”.

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