Food and drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector; we add £28.8 billion to GDP and generate more than £22 billion in exports. FDF members make the UK’s most loved products and are rightly prized for their heritage and for their innovation.
This year saw the launch of the government’s Food and Drink Sector Council, spearheaded by the FDF. We are delighted to be playing such a vital part in shaping the future of our industry and addressing the most difficult challenges facing the UK’s £112 billion “farm to fork” supply chain. Closely linked to the Sector Council is FDF’s proposed food and drink manufacturing sector deal. If given the green light, this will provide much-needed support for food and drink in boosting the sector’s exports and innovation.
FDF and its members have made continued progress in the nation’s diet and health agenda, in tackling obesity, and we continue to rise to the challenges of reformulation and portion sizes.
Food and drink’s exports have enjoyed another record year, growing almost 10 percent to exceed £22 billion in value. However, there is much more to do to make sure this performance is fairly spread across the sector and to match our overseas competitors. As part of the “Global Britain” agenda, I participated in a trade mission to India in January with the Department for International Trade, Santander and some of the UK’s fastest-growing food and drink firms, and look forward to more missions later in the year.
Our future competitiveness depends upon the government securing the best possible Brexit deal, which permits us to trade ingredients and finished products with our closest neighbours as freely as we do today. Food and drink’s prominence in the recent white paper was testament to FDF and our industry’s advocacy over the last months – but now it’s time to transform the rhetoric into action.
Going forward we are still seeking clarity on what the UK’s future may hold for Brexit, on customs, the regulatory relationship with the likes of EFSA and practical solutions for the island of Ireland.
It is at the forefront of our mission to make sure we do all in our power to prevent this so no business faces a cliff edge and so no shopper is denied the choice and food security they rightfully expect.