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    Sunak’s food summit gets mixed response

    Kaleb Cooper (L), a farming contractor and advisor to Jeremy Clarkson on his farming show, arrives with fellow advisor Charlie Ireland in Downing Street to attend a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, in which they will discuss the Farm To Fork Initiative, on May 16, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    Prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Farm to Fork summit failed to address solutions to inflation, soaring costs and food security, some attenders have claimed.

    According to The Guardian, one representative of a trade body that attended the summit described it as an “empty meeting” with no action on price or inflation discussed.

    “It was there for the Tories to show they are supporting farmers,” they said.

    Another attender said the summit elicited a “low-key response” from those present because it “did not touch the fundamental problems of food price inflation”.

    “If you are not doing something about the cost of living, cost of production, access to labour and affordability of food then you are never going to fix the overall problem,” the attender said.

    Lee Stiles, the secretary of the Lea Valley Growers’ Association, a trade body for glasshouse growers, described the food summit as “no more than a PR stunt” with “nothing of substance” to help growers.

    Stiles, who was not at the meeting, called on the government to take action to help with labour shortages.

    The Farm to Fork summit held on Tuesday (16) was the first meeting of its kind. It brought together farmers, food producers and some of Britain’s largest supermarkets as well as associations like National Farmer Union, and British Poultry Council

    The summit had been expected to tackle topics such as food price inflation, fairness within the supply chain and helping farmers to invest in domestic production. The summit took place against a backdrop of high inflation, majorly driven by food and drink prices, which rose 19.1 per cent in the year to March, according to official figures.

    Hours before the meeting, Sunak published an open letter to farmers, promising to put UK farming at the heart of future trade deals and vowing that chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef would not be allowed on to the UK market.

    Sunak’s pledges were welcomed by the NFU, saying the government had “put food security on a par with energy security” at the summit, which he called “a big step forwards”.

    He added that farmers had battled to get ministers to “deliver resilience to the food supply chain”, which he hoped would help reverse recent falls in domestic production, as farmers have quit the industry amid soaring costs.

    The meeting was reportedly attended by between 60 and 70 people and lasted all morning.

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