Measures announced at the Prime Minister's second Farm to Fork summit have been welcomed, but the Government has been urged to go further and develop a "robust" plan for the whole rural economy.

Tuesday's summit included publication of the first UK Food Security Index, to “ensure the Government and sector is resilient to unexpected shocks to the market and extreme weather”, Downing Street said. Other announcements included the appointment of a tenant farming commissioner to resolve issues between landlords, advisors, and tenants, and £72m to help combat endemic disease.

More than 70 businesses and producers from the food and farming industry attended the Downing Street summit, including the Rodda’s dairy company, Fischer Farms, Tesco, Aldi and McCain.

READ MORE | 2024 Farm to Fork summit key announcements by Defra

It came against a backdrop of challenges for farmers, from an unprecedented wet winter which hit harvests, to trading delays and costs, and ongoing high input costs.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told British farmers and growers that they are “vital to the security and the fabric of our country”.

The Scottish Farmer: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks in the garden of 10 Downing Street, London, as he hosts the second Farm to Fork summit, for members of the farming and food industries. Picture date: Tuesday May 14, 2024. PA Photo. The event will look at ways to

“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 home-grown products end up on our plates," said Mr Sunak.

“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 added: “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.”

NFU president Tom Bradshaw, who attended the event, said: “Many of today’s announcements are extremely welcome, particularly those long-term strategic ambitions around the launch of a UK Food Security Index and measures to boost the production of more British fruit and vegetables.

“But we cannot forget that our members have experienced the wettest 18 months since 1836, including devastating flooding, and many are facing an acute short-term crisis.

“That’s why, while we are pleased to see the Prime Minister and Defra saying UK food security is vital to our national security, we need actions in the short-term that underpin that statement, in order to rebuild confidence and resilience."

The Scottish Farmer: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tours stalls in the garden of  Downing Street, London, during the second Farm to Fork summit for members of the farming and food industries. Picture date: Tuesday May 14, 2024. PA Photo. The event will look at ways to champion

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Victoria Vyvyan, who was also present, said: "The public expect greater self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables and farmers can provide it, but the government must ensure its plan is ambitious and workable.

“We call on the government to go a step further by developing a robust and bold plan for the rural economy as a whole. The rural economy is 19 per cent less productive than the national average, but closing that gap would add £43bn to national GVA."

She added: “It is crucial that the role of a tenancy farming commissioner is fair and balanced for landlords, agents and tenants. The commissioner must be a well-respected neutral party with a good understanding of the agricultural world, and have the resources to properly assess any cases that reach them.”

Sir Robert Goodwill, Scarborough and Whitby MP and chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, welcomed the publication of the UK Food Security Index and the upcoming appointment of a tenant farming commissioner. He added: "Tenant farmers form an essential part of our farming communities, and it is essential that their rights are protected and respected.

“We also welcome the announcement of a new supply chain adjudicator, and we look forward to hearing how they will work with the Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure greater fairness and transparency throughout the whole food supply chain.”

However Labour's Shadow environment spokesman Steve Reed said: “After 14 years of Tory failure, our farmers are at breaking point.

“The Conservative government has stood idly by as farmers – including our great fruit and veg growers – have been devastated by flooding, skyrocketing energy prices and undermined by dodgy Tory trade deals. As a result, thousands are being forced out of business.

“Labour will introduce a New Deal for Farmers to put money into their pockets and boost Britain’s food security. We will cut farmers’ energy bills, slash red tape at the borders to get our food exports moving again, and use the Government’s own purchasing power to back British produce.”