Food summit receives mixed reaction

The much vaunted Downing Street Food and Farming summit has been received with very mixed reactions as farming representatives mull over the outcomes of the meeting.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and a host of representatives from across the farming and food sector joined together earlier this week to discuss the issues facing the farming sector.

In an open letter published ahead of the meeting, Sunak made two major pledges: to put farming at the heart of future trade deals; and to ensure chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef would not find its way onto our plates.

The two pledges were welcomed by the delegates and the industry generally. NFU’s vice-president Tom Bradshaw said the pledge ‘put food security on a par with energy security’. However, Richard Griffiths, the chief executive of the British Poultry Council said the meeting was only a ‘little step forward for the food industry.’ While he welcomed the place of producers in future trade deals, he felt far more government attention should be centred on promoting British produced food.

The summit was attended by nearly 70 people and many of those at the event expressed disappointment and frustration that there was no word about how the government might tackle food price inflation or fairness within the supply chain.

Writing after the summit, NFU President Minette Batters said: ‘There is still much to be done. To match its ambitions for food and farming in Britain, and to prevent further food shortages, the Government needs to set ambitious targets for domestic food production, just as it has done for housing, energy and the environment.

A commitment to growing Britain’s food-production self-sufficiency beyond the current 60 per cent, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels, would reinforce the importance of a secure supply of safe, affordable and sustainably produced home-grown food, helping to prevent further shortages.

It was far from unanimous praise for the Food Summit however. In a statement released on social media, a number of representatives from environmental-focused groups, came together to say: ‘While we understand food retailers, manufacturers and some farmers have been invited, a lot of people with interest and expertise in the food system have been left outside. This includes Henry Dimbleby, the government’s former food adviser and author of the National Food Strategy, and some major food, farming and environmental organisations. This risks missing the opportunity to build effective solutions which tackle the broad range of challenges facing our food and farming system.’

The full statement, published on the Sustain website, can be read here:

Minette Batters’ reaction to the summit, on behalf of the NFU, can be read here: