The announcement a UK General Election will take place on 4 July caught a few people on the hop. But, now that the dust has settled, various industries will be wondering how the poll is likely to affect them above and beyond the general economic outlook.

The food and agri-food sectors are no exception and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) was fast out of the blocks to suggest that food and farming are “a key issue” ahead of voting day.

Its 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.”

He added: “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.”

As far as the election campaign is concerned, it seems unlikely that food industry-specific issues such as taking action to tackle obesity by introducing measures to curtail advertising around unhealthy food aimed at kids are likely to get a look in as the main parties fighting for power concentrate on the economy, the National Health Service, immigration and the previous government’s track record.

But macro issues – some of them linked to the UK’s departure from the European Union – may get a mention. These include a severe labour shortage experienced by the fruit and vegetable industries and meatpacking businesses now that they are curtailed from bringing in workers from abroad.

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And this issue feeds into the larger piece around food security, the ability to feed the nation.

Timing-wise this election is interesting – from an agri-food perspective – as it follows soon after this month’s UK Farm to Fork Summit, hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street.

Following that meeting – at which some 70 representatives from food manufacturing, retail, farming and industry bodies were invited to thrash out the issues they are facing – a number of initiatives were announced, including a new annual UK Food Security Index to track the impacts of external factors, such as the Russia-Ukraine war or extreme weather events, and a “blueprint” to grow the fruit and vegetable sector.

Other measures announced included providing access to affordable, sustainable energy and water, cutting planning red tape around glasshouses and the appointment of an agricultural supply chain adjudicator to oversee the enforcement of “fair dealing regulations”.

Given the General Election was announced a week or so later, it begs the question of whether these things are going to happen, given Sunak’s Conservative Party is way behind in the polls.

The opposition Labour Party, however, has also given plenty of thought to issues around food security.

On labour shortages, it said in its Feeding the Nation policy document it will work with the food sector to raise the profile of career opportunities in the industry.

And, of interest to food manufacturers, it is also committed to implementing the 9pm watershed for ‘junk food’ advertising on television and to banning paid-for advertising of less healthy foods on online media aimed at children.

The political activist Emma Goldman once said “politicians promise you heaven before election and give you hell after”, but the UK food and agri-food industries will be hoping that whoever is in power come 5 July, will have their best interests at heart.

It would be foolish of any incoming government to ignore issues of such fundamental importance.