Farming leaders in East Anglia have welcomed long-term government commitments on food security - but warned more short-term action is urgently needed to help struggling farmers.

The government announced a "major package" of support measures at the Farm to Fork Summit hosted by prime minister Rishi Sunak in Downing Street.

It includes a new strategic blueprint for growing the £4bn UK fruit and vegetable sector by ensuring access to sustainable energy and water, cutting planning red tape and doubling innovation investments to £80m.

The summit also saw the publication of the first draft Food Security Index, and further support for farmers affected by recent wet weather.

After previously extending its Farming Recovery Fund, Defra says "temporary adjustments" will now be made for farmers and land managers "where the wet weather has led to difficulties carrying out the requirements of our Environmental Land Management Schemes".

There was also a £75m pledge to help internal drainage boards (IDBs) to "accelerate recovery from the winter 2023-24 storms", and upgrade their infrastructure.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) welcomed the announcements, but stressed the need for immediate support to help the sector and rebuild much-needed confidence.

Eastern Daily Press: Nick Deane, who farms at Hoveton, is the NFU Council representative for NorfolkNick Deane, who farms at Hoveton, is the NFU Council representative for Norfolk (Image: NFU)

NFU Norfolk council representative Nick Deane said: “It was good to see the government recognising the medium and long-term problems facing certain sectors of our industry.

“The starting of a Food Security Index and some of the other measures announced should have a positive impact.

“However, a lot of us are struggling with issues currently, in the here and now.

“These issues are relating to market volatility and are as a result of the wettest winter we have seen since 1836.

“There is a very real and urgent need for medium and short-term support to make sure farmers here can get through this challenging period and stay in business to be able to benefit from the results of the long-term measures laid out.”

NFU president Tom Bradshaw added: “The NFU’s recent confidence survey revealed just how tough it is out there currently – the reality is that some farmers and growers believe they may not survive long enough to benefit from today’s announcements.

“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 so farming businesses can continue producing food."

This summit was attended by almost 100 representatives from food and farming organisations, as well as cabinet members and officials from departments across Whitehall.

Environment secretary Steve Barclay said: "Food security is vital to our national security, which is why today’s summit is so important.

"We will continue to invest in and support farmers to produce the best of British food to strengthen our food security, championing innovation in the sector."