Members of the UK food industry have responded to the PM’s announcement of a 4th July general election.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday 23rd May that the UK would hold its general election on 4th July, after months of speculation over a potential election date.

Director general of the Provision Trade Federation Rod Addy said: “This snap general election means a lot of pending parliamentary business will not now happen, in particular, the law surround GB-wide ‘Not for EU’ labelling and any response to the Fairer Food Consultation.

“It also leaves issues surrounding import controls up in the air. From the Prime Minister’s perspective, he clearly believes a quick resolution will benefit the Conservatives more than drawing things out to his previously anticipated autumn election option.”

The announcement comes just months after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared at the 2024 National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Conference in February, where he pledged to support British farming.

NFU president Tom Bradshaw said: “This general election may well be the most important in a generation for British food and farming. The stakes are very high. If the next Government gets it right then this huge sector can grow, contributing even more to the UK economy, to the health and welfare of Britons and to the environment. But farming and growing is under huge pressure.

“Confidence is the currency that forms the foundation of feeding the country and it is currently at rock bottom; after months of devastating flooding, high production costs and low market returns, and against a backdrop of reformed farm support as we transition to a new domestic agriculture policy. Farmers and growers need the policies in place that will rebuild confidence and deliver a thriving, profitable farming sector delivering for food security as a key part of our national security.

“What farmers, growers and the public need to see is practical policies which invest in a future where Britain’s farmers and growers can continue producing sustainable, affordable food, driving forward economic growth, providing jobs, and delivering on the nation’s environmental ambitions.”

Policy design “should be collaborative”

Kelly Shields, technical director at the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), said: “The FPC have been clear in its asks of the current Government since Brexit was announced and has worked tirelessly to bring workable industry solutions to the attention of those responsible for steering policy.

“The FPC is keen for any change in Government to consider the evidence and testimonies of businesses, both large and small, in relation to the impact of the implemented and planned SPS changes.

“There is a willingness to work collaboratively to ensure that the necessary biosecurity measures are implemented in a way that promotes trade and international relations, whilst putting the economic sustainability of businesses at the heart of any policy.

“FPC would hope that any new PM comes to the role with a genuine desire to understand the challenges faced. Policy design should be collaborative, consistent and implemented with confidence to give industry the security it needs going forward after many years of uncertainty.”

Rupert Ashby, chief executive of the BFFF, said: “Our industry has a key role to play in tackling several of the key challenges that will be on the new Government’s agenda. Easing the cost of living crisis, for example, encouraging healthier lifestyles, and meeting the UK’s environmental targets.

“We’re keen to see the new administration take action to support the industry in achieving these aims, and we’ve laid out the key priorities. They include reforming tax policies to make frozen foods more affordable, sustainable and accessible; investing in innovation; cutting red tape; developing a skilled workforce and improving public perception of frozen food.”

Chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA), Phil Stocker, said: “The UK agricultural sector is already on a trajectory towards more sustainable farming, where food production has become recognised as more important, without taking away the need for better natural resource protection, helping to tackle climate change, and providing for nature within a farmed landscape.

“There is nothing I hear from the Labour Party to suggest that if there were to be a political change, that we would see a change of direction and that has to be good suggesting no major deviation whatever the election result. NSA has worked hard to grow relationships with both the major political parties so they understand the opportunities and the barriers faced by sheep farmers and I feel we have done that with some success.”