Prime minister Rishi Sunak has launched a new package aimed at protecting the UK food supply chain. This also encompasses a promise to protect farmers in future trade deal negotiations, as part of his efforts to tackle inflation. However, a row within the cabinet over additional visas for fruit pickers still continues.
Sunak’s new measures aim to “strengthen the long-term resilience and sustainability of the sector”. The plan includes dedicated support for international traders, including:
- Funds of £2m to help exporters and importers attend global trade shows
- Five new “agri-food and drink attaches” who will work to remove trade barriers around the world
- £1m each to promote diary and seafood exports
The PM wrote an open letter to UK farmers laying out six principles to “ensure British farming is at the heart of British trade.” These principles included protecting sensitive sectors in future trade deals, upholding the UK’s food and production standards, and removing market access barriers, with the Richmond MP saying that UK farming and produce could not be “an afterthought” in negotiations.
According to export.org.uk, the support package coincides with Sunak’s UK Farm to Fork summit, hosted on 16 May in Downing Street, which saw representatives from the food industry come together to discuss the high cost of grocery products.
Farmer says it is ‘impossible’ not to rely on migrant fruit pickers
A call by the home secretary to limit dependence on migrant workers was “impossible”, said Christine Snell. Ms Snell runs a soft fruit farm in Herefordshire and said she was barely able to recruit 10% of the workers it needed during the pandemic.
“Had I relied on them to pick the crops, the crops would have just remained in the field,” she said. “We tried very hard in the pandemic to recruit locally. Out of the 300 we need, we were able to recruit about 35.”