NFU President and a senior Warwickshire officeholder respond to Number 10 Farm to Fork Summit

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After joining the Prime Minster at the Farm to Fork Summit at Number 10, the NFU has welcomed announcements made to look at long-term strategic plans around food security, horticulture, investment and growth for the sector.

But after the NFU revealed a crisis of confidence among farmers and growers in a survey last week, which showed farmer confidence at a record low following the wettest winter on record, it stressed the need for immediate support to help the sector and rebuild much-needed confidence and resilience.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted the summit at 10 Downing Street on 14 May.

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The NFU called for the food summit in the run up to the Conservative leadership election in 2022, with the first being held at Downing Street in 2023.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with NFU President Tom BradshawPrime Minister Rishi Sunak with NFU President Tom Bradshaw
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with NFU President Tom Bradshaw

The NFU also called for it to be an annual event and for the publication of an annual Food Security Index, with this second summit attended by almost 100 representatives from food and farming organisations, as well as members of Cabinet and departments across Whitehall.

Alderminster farmer Mark Meadows, NFU regional board deputy chair who represents farmers across the Midlands, said the emotional and financial impact on farming families over the winter and into the spring could not be underestimated.

“Many face a serious short-term crisis and production intentions have plummeted with all sectors expecting to decrease production over the next year.

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“There are serious challenges facing our county farms, certainly in terms of cropping and Harvest 2024 but issues across the board, and it was important for NFU President Tom Bradshaw to discuss this with Rishi Sunak.

“With a General Election on the horizon, it has never been more important to have our farmers’ voices heard and the NFU will continue to look for ways to secure a more resilient and sustainable future for county farming families."

He said the NFU would continue to engage ministers and 'offer solutions that we think will work' and he hoped the door would remain open.

At the summit, a series of announcements were made by the government including:

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· A new blueprint to increase domestic production in the UK horticulture sector

· The publication of the Food Security Index setting out key data and trends

· Further support for farmers and growers affected by wet weather.

NFU President Tom Bradshaw said: “It was good to return to Number 10 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.

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“Many of the 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 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 18 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.

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“That’s why, while we are pleased to see the Prime Minister and Defra saying UK food security is vital to our national security, we need actions in the short-term that underpin that statement, in order to rebuild confidence and resilience so farming businesses can continue producing food.

“We will continue to engage with ministers on the detail needed for the immediate relief our farm businesses require and believe that core standards for food imports also need to be part of the long-term offer.”