GE24: Farming for a global Britain

British food and farming can be a flagship globally for all that is great about Great Britain. Our general election manifesto – Farming for Britain’s Future – calls on the next government to work with us to maximise British food and drink’s potential in new and existing markets, at home and abroad.

Our reputation for excellent food, produced to world-leading standards, is second to none and demand for it is growing.

British food and drink has a reputation for excellence and is in demand across the globe.

People in more than 200 countries demand and enjoy our high-quality, traceable, climate-friendly produce. It is a great success story, with the agri-food sector contributing more than £127 billion (GVA – gross value added) to the economy and supporting more than 4 million jobs.

Our NFU export strategy

In April 2022, the NFU launched an ambitious 10-point strategy aiming to grow the UK’s food, drink and agricultural exports by 30% by 2030, bringing the total value of UK agri-food exports to over £30 billion.

A number of the points in the plan have already been addressed – the establishment of a Food and Drink Export Council, which will work in partnership with the industry to promote exports; a further five new agri-food attachés based in the UK’s overseas embassies, bringing the total number to 16.

What the public think

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82% say it would be a good idea for the government to set targets to increase British food production.

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75% think the creation of a SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) committee for food, farming and agriculture is a good idea to help the government better plan and navigate food and farming emergencies in the UK.

Maximising the opportunities

At the Farm to Fork Summit at Downing Street in May 2023, the Prime Minister also announced additional funding of £2 million to strengthen our exporters’ presence at trade shows and a further £1 million earmarked especially for dairy exports. The additional funding for dairy exports is particularly welcomed, especially as the dairy industry is proactively organising itself through an industry-led Dairy Export Task Force co-ordinated by the NFU.

While this is good progress, there is much more that needs to be done. British farmers and growers want to be the suppliers of choice to shoppers nationally and across the world. With the right export policy support from government, we can achieve this aim and help food security on a national and global level.

Maximising the opportunities to promote our food and drink on the global stage is also crucial if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities of new trade agreements.

Ireland’s Bord Bia (Irish Food Board) has blazed a trail with its Origin Green sustainability programme. This programme is the only one in the world which operates at a national level and sees farmers and primary producers, processors and retailers working together and leading the way to create a better future for all involved.

This kind of collaborative approach will help us to showcase our food around the world, maintain and enhance our global competitiveness, help the growth, sustainability and resilience of our food producers and the businesses they supply, and enable us to achieve the ambitions we share for Britain as a food-producing nation.

Core production standards

Establishing a set of core production standards for all food consumed in the UK is essential if our farmers and growers are not to be disadvantaged as the government develops more new free trade agreements following Brexit.

These standards would ensure our farmers and growers remain at the forefront of sustainable, climate-friendly farming and the supplier of choice to consumers at home and abroad, as well as providing a safeguard as our markets are opened up to imports from countries whose standards may differ from our own.

Innovation, research and development

Innovation is also crucial to ensuring our position as a world leader in the production of climate-friendly food. Innovative technologies like gene editing offer huge opportunities for farmers and growers and they need to be accessible on farm as soon as possible. The use of science and evidence in policy decisions is also central to our ambitions to be recognised as a leader on the global stage.

A Scientific Advisory Group, similar in basic remit to SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), would play a vital role in ensuring the best science and evidence
is used when making decisions around food production, providing independent scientific advice using expert knowledge and insight around key decisions and issues.

NFU asks

1. FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS: Publish an annual FTA (Free Trade Agreement) assessment to quantify the cumulative impact of FTAs on trade balance, sourcing, standards and domestic food production, adapting domestic agricultural policy as a result.

2. CORE PRODUCTION STANDARDS: Begin a formal process of developing and establishing core production standards that apply to agri-food imports, and a restatement of government commitments to retain full sovereignty over our food and farming standards in future FTA negotiations.

3. RISK REGISTER THREATS: A cross-government, Treasury-funded plan to deal with issues identified on the government risk register that threaten food production capability, such as African Swine Fever and plant pests.

4. ENHANCING AHDB'S ROLE: Enhance the role of AHDB with government matching levy payer funding for export promotion (presently around £8 million per year) to open and leverage new markets around the world.

5. Set out plans to invest in agricultural technology and innovation centres that bring benefits to the UK by, for example, taking the opportunity created by the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act 2023 for UK farming.

6. Creation of a Scientific Advisory Group for agriculture, similar in basic remit to SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

To see our asks in more detail, visit: Farming for Britain's Future: our election manifesto

This page was first published on 03 June 2024. It was updated on 17 June 2024.