News from inside the Downing Street Farm-to-Fork Summit
Following this week’s Farm to Fork Summit held at Downing Street at which Nick Allen represented the UK meat industry, the government has unveiled a series of initiatives aimed at shoring-up the resilience of the farming and food sectors and enabling the UK to reach a target of 60% food self-sufficiency. The announcement encompasses innovation, skills development, new farming schemes, fairer supply chains, boosting exports, water and energy security, and cutting red tape.
In contrast to some recent messages coming from the Home Office, there appears to be an implicit acknowledgement from No. 10 that there is a persistent issue with access to workers; one which is slowly strangling the industry and reducing Britain’s productive capacity, as well as driving up food price inflation.
In their announcement, the Prime Minister’s office committed to responding to the Independent Review of Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain and to the launch of the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture later this year which it’s hoped will further strengthen support for home-grown skills and careers in the sector.
But, seeking to fill vacancies with British workers alone is not a viable short, or even medium-term, solution for the meat industry. Nick Allen told Politics Home recently: “70 per cent of our workers were non-UK when Brexit happened, and that’s a significant number to replace. We are not talking years, we are talking decades to get where Suella Braverman would like us to be, and that will depend on a lot of factors”.
The announcement also emphasises the importance of fairness in supply chains. Government has already introduced new powers through the Agriculture Act 2020 and is starting work on developing regulations for the pig sector, which BMPA will be monitoring closely to ensure regulators understand all the relevant complexities involved in that supply chain.
One thing to come out of the Summit that was encouraging is the addition of five new Trade Attaches who will be providing an on-the-ground conduit into our most valuable overseas markets. After meeting them Nick Allen remarked: “It’s particularly useful that we now have direct technical input via the Trade Attaches, including a new veterinary representative in China. My hope is that this will lead to a deeper and more regular engagement that will facilitate trade with new and existing trading partners.”
We look forward to measuring progress at the next annual Farm to Fork Summit which Prime Minister Sunak has pledged to hold in 12 months’ time.