Government has “responsibility to act” to accelerate farming transition

A PACKAGE of measures to support British farming were unveiled yesterday at the Number 10 food summit. These included greater protections in future trade deals and the abandonment of plans to merge the Grocery Code Adjudicator with the Competition and Markets Authority.

The summit however failed to address existing and future fragility in the food system and in nature. Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Farming Today, Patrick Holden, Executive Chair of the Sustainable Food Trust said “The agricultural transition, which needs to be happening in parallel with the energy transition, is simply not happening fast enough and the Government has a responsibility to act. If you compare energy with agriculture it’s actually far more important because agriculture is affecting not only climate, but also nature and public health.”

An Alternative Food Summit, organised by 8.9ha, will take place on Friday 19th May at 12.30pm. For more information and to book your place on Eventbrite, please click here.

Downing Street said the government’s initiatives, as well as putting greater emphasis on farmers’ interests during international trade negotiations, include reviewing supply chains to ensure producers are getting a fair deal and making it easier to turn properties on their land into farm shops.

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said the measures, which include a £30 million investment in new technologies, were about putting “more British produce on supermarket shelves and plates”. She said “Food production is the primary purpose of farming, and our world-leading farmers and food producers work tirelessly day-in-day-out to keep the nation fed.”

The Food Summit takes place at a time of remarkable food price inflation, a health crisis, global supply chain instability linked to the impacts of war and climate change, and a mounting crisis in biodiversity and soil health.

Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission believes a much broader approach to food and land use is needed. She said “To start to solve these huge – and interconnected – issues, government must start listening to independent and citizens voices, who have a wealth of innovative ideas for a more secure, more sustainable and fairer food system.”

Ahead of the summit on Tuesday, the government confirmed a range of measures, including a commitment to provide 45,000 visas to the horticulture sector next year, enabling them to plan ahead for the picking season.

Attendees at the summit included senior representatives in the UK’s farming, horticulture and agri-food sectors. Number 10 said that the event looked at how government and industry could work together to increase investment, innovation and sustainability and to support the long-term resilience at every stage of the food system, from farming to manufacturing, distribution and retail.

Responding to the food summit in The Grocer, Dan Crossley, Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council, said that there was a compelling need to bring fresh faces to the summit table, “not just the bosses of the traditional food and farming trade associations. We need different voices pushing for diversity on our plates, biodiversity on and off farm, and diversity in our workforce. If anything is decided at the food summit, do it with people, rather than to people.”

Prime Minister Rishi 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.”

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