PM plan to back British producers is welcome but must be ambitious, says CLA

Blueprint to boost fruit and veg sector as new food security index launched at Farm to Fork summit
Selection of winter vegetables
The index has been published alongside a new blueprint to grow the UK fruit and vegetable sector in order to reinforce the country’s food security.

Rishi Sunak has announced a new package of measures to support the agricultural industry at the second annual Farm to Fork summit.

Held at 10 Downing Street and attended by CLA President Victoria Vyvyan, the Prime Minister has set out a blueprint to boost the fruit and vegetable sector, launching a new food security index.

The CLA has welcomed the measures but called on the Government to ensure its plan is ambitious and workable, and go further to level up the rural economy.

The announcements include:

  • The first draft of the UK Annual Food Security Index, to allow the government, industry and farmers to monitor the impacts of external factors, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or extreme adverse weather events.
  • It will set out how Government will track UK-wide food security on an annual basis, monitoring domestic food production, land use, input costs and farmer productivity. This year’s index will show the UK farming sector is at its "most productive since records began", it says.
  • A new Horticulture Resilience and Growth offer, which will replace the retained EU scheme, will be rolled out. Through this new scheme, the Government will look to double the amount of funding given to horticulture businesses compared to the current scheme, taking it to £80m per year.
  • A Commissioner for the Tenant Farming Sector (CTFS) will be appointed this autumn, following the Rock Review.

'Robust and bold plan needed'

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Victoria Vyvyan said:

“British food is world-class and produced to some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards found anywhere, and it is pleasing to see the Prime Minister recognise the importance of food security and growing domestic production. The public expect greater self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables and farmers can provide it, but the government must ensure its plan is ambitious and workable.

“We call on the government to go a step further by developing a robust and bold plan for the rural economy as a whole. The rural economy is 19% less productive than the national average, but closing that gap would add £43bn to national GVA.

“It is crucial that the role of a tenant farming commissioner is fair and balanced for landlords, agents and tenants. The commissioner must be a well-respected neutral party with a good understanding of the agricultural world, and have the resources to properly assess any cases that reach them.”

Other measures

The Government also announced:

  • Up to £3 million towards supporting small and mobile abattoirs.
  • A £72m fund to the Endemics Diseases Scheme, which will help eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea in cattle, control porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in pigs and tackle a range of different health conditions in sheep.
  • A £22m infrastructure grant for laying hens to help poultry farmers to improve the health, welfare and productivity of their flocks.

The Food Security Index highlights that currently the UK produces the equivalent of 17% of the fruit and 55% of the vegetables that end up on British plates, significantly lagging behind meat, dairy and grains.

More than 70 businesses and producers working and supporting the food and farming industry attended the Farm to Fork summit, discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.