Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has emphasised the importance of international trade in an open letter to British farmers today (Tuesday, May 16).

He said it is “critical” to food security and stopping a repeat of food shortages experienced earlier this year, and to growing the Britain’s economy.

“When you consider the scale of the opportunities within our grasp as we forge new trade deals around the world, British farming and British produce simply cannot be an afterthought,” he said.

In that vein he announced six principles to ensure British farming is at the heart of British trade.

These are:

  1. Putting agriculture up front. Farmers’ interest will be put at the heart of trade policy;
  2. Protecting sensitive sectors. This will include in Free Trade Agreements, and where appropriate, through permanent quotas;
  3. Prioritising new export opportunities;
  4. Protecting UK food standards. This applies under all existing and future Free Trade agreements, Sunak said;
  5. Upholding UK production standards;
  6. Removing market access barriers. Government will work to remove barriers outside of Free Trade Agreements – building on recent successes such as the lifting of the long-standing US ban on British lamb.

Sunak also announced that the government will invest an additional £2 million in Britain’s presence at major trade shows, assisted by five additional agri-food and drink attaches, and create a £1 million programme to support the dairy sector in specific to export.

“By backing British farming in this way, we can enable the whole world to feast on the very best of British, while creating new jobs, growing our economy, and delivering the food security we need,” he said.

Open letter to farmers

The Prime Minister penned the letter ahead of the first ever Farm to Fork Summit in Downing Street which will take place today

The event will look at how government and industry can work together to increase investment, innovation and sustainability, and support the long-term resilience at every stage of the food system. It will feature discussions on a set of key themes alongside a showcase of great British food and drink businesses and innovators.

Attendees will include senior representatives in the UK’s farming, horticulture and agri-food sectors.

Ahead of the summit, the government also announced that 45,000 visas will be available again to the horticulture sector next year, enabling growers to plan ahead for the picking season.

It also confirmed that it will replace the retained EU Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organisation Scheme when it closes in 2026 with an expanded offer as part of its new farming payment schemes, and will conduct additional reviews into fairness in the horticulture and egg supply chains.