The Government’s food summit this week has been labelled as a ‘PR stunt’, as attendees claim that the prime minister failed to address solutions to inflation, soaring costs and food insecurity.
The Farm to Fork summit, the first meeting of its kind, brought together farmers, food producers and some of Britain’s largest supermarkets yesterday morning.
The event had been expected to tackle topics such as food price inflation, fairness within the supply chain, and safeguarding British food production, among other crucial topics. However, none of this was discussed.
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,” the source said.
The summit took place against the backdrop of surging inflation, which saw food and drink inflation rise to 19.1% in March.
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Lee Stiles, the secretary of the Lea Valley Growers’ Association, a trade body for glasshouse growers, told The Guardian that the food summit was “no more than a PR stunt” with “nothing of substance” to help growers.
While Stiles wasn’t at the meeting, he is instead calling on the government to take action to help with labour shortages within retailer supply chains.
Additionally, ministers offered no commitments in response to a call by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to stop Britain’s self-sufficiency in food slipping below its current level of 60%.
NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said the union believed 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 food production due to farmers quitting the industry amid soaring costs.
Attending the summit was the chief executive of the British Poultry Council, Richard Griffiths, who believed the meeting represented only “a little step forward” for the food industry.
He welcomed the government’s promises regarding future trade deals, but said that promising to support producers in international trade deals without making any plan on how to tackle food inflation was like “taking one corner of a big problem and trying to fix it without reference to the rest”.