The UK government has unveiled a set of measures including a strategy for future trade arrangements, increased aid for horticulture, and a significant monetary injection into precision breeding technologies. These were revealed before today’s (16 May) food security summit at Downing Street, piquing considerable interest from across the farming sector.


  • The UK government unveils a strategy for future trade deals, increased horticulture support, and investment in precision breeding technologies.
  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts the UK Farm to Fork Summit, presenting a detailed plan to enhance UK food and drink exports.
  • The government commits to maintaining food standards under all future free-trade agreements, ruling out chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef.
  • Measures include £2m for international trade shows, more agri-food attachés, and a £1m fund for dairy exporters.
  • Additional initiatives include 45,000 visas for overseas horticulture workers, £30m for precision breeding technologies, and reviews into supply chain fairness.
  • Plans to keep the Groceries Code Adjudicator separate, expand the EU Fruit and Vegetable Scheme, and ease planning rules for farm diversifications are announced.
  • The package receives a positive response from the National Farmers’ Union president, highlighting its strategic significance for British farming.

On the Farm to Fork Summit

The event, known as the “UK Farm to Fork Summit”, is hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, honouring a commitment he made during the Conservative Party leadership race last year. The announcement and event also come after what some in the sector described a previous foreign deal signed by former British Prime Minister Liz Truss as a “shambles.”

Farm leaders had initially expressed doubts about the event, fearing it might merely serve as a platform for empty discussions, but some across the sector have shown cautious optimism.

Yet, a comprehensive set of proposals and commitments from the government, released just before the summit, seems to alleviate such concerns—for the moment.

On International Trade

In a letter directed to farmers, PM Sunak outlined several steps the government plans to take to enhance UK food and drink exports, while also offering some level of protection against inferior imports—primarily fears of low-quality produce coming from the US.

Out of the six primary principles, the prime minister has assured to carefully consider the impact of potential trade deals on the UK’s domestic agriculture (see Australia, NZ deals).

Furthermore, he pledged to secure safeguards for sensitive products, “including, where appropriate, through permanent quotas.”

“Without exception, we will persist in upholding food standards in the UK under all current and future free-trade agreements,” he stressed.

Sunak also declared categorically, “There will be no chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef in the UK market. Not now, not ever.”

Mr Sunak further promised to “preserve our capacity to uphold high environmental, animal welfare, and food standards in new trade agreements.” He cited the existing UK bans on sow stalls and battery cages as instances of the UK’s commitment to superior standards.

The updated package also now offers £2mn to enhance the UK’s participation in international trade fairs, the nomination of five additional agri-food attachés globally, and a tailored £1mn fund for dairy exporters.

Additional measures

  1. The government’s announcement includes several other measures that, according to Mr. Sunak, will fortify food security and foster resilience. These include:
  2. A provision of up to £30 million to promote the use of precision breeding technologies
  3. The initiation of new reviews on supply chain fairness for the horticulture and egg sectors (expanding on the ongoing reviews for pigs and dairy)
  4. A pledge to issue 45,000 visas for foreign workers in the horticulture industry in 2024
  5. Assurance that the Groceries Code Adjudicator will remain independent from the Competition and Markets Authority
  6. Plans to expand the EU Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organisation Scheme when it concludes in 2026
  7. The relaxation of planning regulations to stimulate the construction of new glasshouses and encourage farm diversifications
  8. A push to expedite work on water supply infrastructure.

FERN’s Take

Whilst the government’s announcement of extensive measures aimed at bolstering the UK agriculture sector, detailed at the recent UK Farm to Fork Summit, may initially seem encouraging, one must approach it with a degree of prudent scepticism. As an organisation focused on the future economic viability of rural communities, the Future Economic Rural Network recognises that the devil, as always, is in the detail. For instance, the £30 million pledge towards precision breeding technologies, while appearing substantial, must be proportionate to the scale of the sector’s needs and effectively distributed to generate tangible impact.

Similarly, while the assurance of 45,000 visas for overseas horticulture workers in 2024 may temporarily relieve labour shortages, it does little to address the root cause of the issue or offer a long-term, sustainable solution. Moreover, the promise to maintain food standards under all future free-trade agreements is commendable, yet without a robust and transparent system for monitoring and enforcing these standards, it remains simply a promise. Thus, while we welcome the government’s focus on the agriculture sector, we emphasise the need for clear, concrete, and sustainable action plans rather than mere tokenistic gestures.