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Business of Food

Rishi Sunak to address UK food security with industry leaders at No 10’s Food Summit

young woman with glasses smiling
3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
British PM Rishi Sunak speaking to Director of Defra, Thérèse Coffey, UK flag in background

Image credit: UK Government

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will host a Food Summit with industry leaders at Number 10 on Tuesday 16 May, the Government has said.

The meeting is expected to cover issues around inflation and food security in the British food and agricultural sector, but the full agenda is still to completed.

A source told The Times that the talks will prioritise inflation, as well as four broader themes: trade and exports, supply chain resilience and exports, growth and sustainable farming, and innovation.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), National Farmers Union, British Retail Consortium, and Morrisons are some of the sector chiefs anticipated to attend the event.

According to the paper, invitations sent to businesses note the talks are “an opportunity to look at the UK supply chain and see what more it could do to increase production sustainably domestically, but also increase exports based on efficient, well-run production”.

Farm leaders have welcomed the announcement of the Food Summit, with the NFU calling for the event to take place on an annual basis. NFU President Minette Batters however has stressed the upcoming meeting must include more than discussions.

“The past 18 months have been a stark reminder of how vulnerable the nation’s food security is”, she said in a statement. “It has been a wakeup call for the importance of a secure domestic supply of food, and it is vital that the summit delivers actions, not just words.”

Batters has called for the Government to commit to ensuring Britain’s food self-sufficiency levels don’t dip below 60%, as well as “report on domestic food levels and utilise powers under the Agriculture Act to make supply chains fairer.”

Head of the Sustainable Farming Campaign at Sustain, Vicki Hird, has expressed doubts about how productive the event will be. “It is extraordinary that just weeks out from this summit, the government has binned its own planned horticulture strategy – one of the very few solid pledges contained in its food strategy plan,” she told Farmers Weekly. Former food tsar Henry Dimbleby had called for the Government to develop a ‘world-leading horticulture strategy for England’ in his National Food Strategy, to boost growth in a sector that faces immense pressure due to growing labour shortages and energy prices.

Hird continued: “If the only result of this supposed ‘summit’ is a photo of Rishi Sunak meeting the head of the NFU, then it will be a clear sign that the government has no plan.

“The government cannot leave the nation’s food security in the hands of the supermarket chains alone. It needs a plan that includes maintaining the independent Groceries Code Adjudicator, new, legally binding supply chain codes of practice, more transparent labelling and ideally an action plan to increase the market share of shorter and farmer-focused supply chains.”

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