Food industry figures across the United Kingdom have published a ‘path to recovery’ for the industry post-Covid 19. The proposals, endorsed by over 30 UK food and drink organisations, outline steps Government and industry can take to future proof the sector, and call on the Government to address the UK’s negative balance of trade in food.
Michael Bell, Executive Director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) and coordinator of the report said:
“Covid-19 has challenged the UK food and drink industry in a once in a generation way. Food manufacturers have been working harder than ever to ensure that the nation is fed – with companies having to adapt to an evolving situation at a rapid pace, responding to changes in demand and implementing social distancing measures. Within a short period of time, firms have reengineered and reimagined processes, requiring a significant level of investment. Put simply, the industry has demonstrated both its ingenuity and its necessity in these unprecedented times.
“Just as the Government has taken courageous and rapid decisions to address the challenge of the pandemic, we now need to deliver a ‘pathway to recovery’ for UK food and drink. Industry stands ready to work with Government on this, and our proposals published today outline actions Government and industry can take to future proof the sector. In the short term we need to protect our capacity in food production, ensuring our domestic farming, processing and food service sectors are able to emerge from this crisis intact.
“In the longer term, the Government needs to reassess its policy on food and drink. For too long, successive governments have been content to witness continual decline in self-sufficiency in food. The strain that Covid-19 has put on the food chain has exposed the inherent weaknesses in this approach, and we now have an opportunity to reverse that trend. It will require serious investment, but the economic and societal gains would be immense. The UK currently has a trade deficit of some £24billion in food. Assuming 30% of this could be produced efficiently in the UK, a balance of trade benefit of up to £8billion could be realised.
“The UK’s food and drink industry and the wider ‘eating ecosystem’ of other sectors it supports – farming, transport and logistics, cold stores, packaging, catering, food service and retail – contributes £460billion to the national economy, employing millions of people across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The ‘path to recovery’ proposals published today provide the opportunity to build on that success, and deliver new gains for society across the UK as we emerge from this pandemic.”