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    Sunak sets out blueprint to boost British fruit, vegetable sector

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during the Farm to Fork summit in Downing Street on May 14, 2024 in London, England. The Farm to Fork Summit brings together industry across the food supply chain to explore further opportunities to support the sector. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

    Prime minister Rishi Sunak has been launched his food security index to farmers on Tuesday (14), as experts predict extreme weather this year could cut UK self-sufficiency by 8 per cent.

    The first draft of the UK Annual Food Security Index will 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 that the UK farming sector is at its most productive since records began. 

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

    As part of this, 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, including making up to £10m available to help English orchard growers access equipment, technology and infrastructure to support the growing of great British fruit.

    Prime Minister will also launch a review into the barriers the horticulture sector is facing to upscale their businesses, including promising to cut red tape around the building of glasshouses. A further £15m will be invested into Genetic Improvement Networks to help boost access to more resilient crop varieties that require fewer inputs and cut farmer costs.

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “Come rain or shine, I will always back British farmers. From feeding the nation to protecting our countryside, they are vital to the security and the fabric of our country. 

    “This package of support will help farmers produce more British food, delivers on our long-term plan to invest in our rural communities, and ensures the very best of our homegrown products end up on our plates. 

    “I know for many farmers, the impact of adverse weather in recent months has made working the land even harder, but my message is clear, our support for you is unwavering and we will be with you every step of the way.”

    Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said, “Food security is vital to our national security, which is why today’s summit is so important, bringing together government and key representatives from the farming and food sector at Downing Street.

    “This announcement will turbocharge the growth of our horticultural sector supporting the building of cutting-edge glasshouses and innovative farming techniques to put British fruit and vegetables on our plates all-year round.  

    “We will continue to invest in and support farmers to produce the best of British food to strengthen our food security, championing innovation in the sector.”

    The government will also support farmers to get a fair price for their products by laying new regulations in Parliament for eggs, fresh produce and pigs, ensuring they have reasonable and transparent contracts. This follows similar action for the dairy sector earlier this year. A new supply chain adjudicator, Richard Thompson, will also be appointed, to ensure fairness in the supply chain is being effectively enforced. 

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