New proposals to put food and drink sector on ‘path to recovery’ post-COVID-19

09 June 2020, 09:48 AM
  • New report outlines changes needed to future-proof the industry
New proposals to put food and drink sector on ‘path to recovery’ post-COVID-19

In a bid to help the sector bounce back post-COVID-19, food industry figures across the UK have come together to publish a ‘path to recovery’ report.

The proposals have been endorsed by over 30 food and drink organisations in the country, and set out steps that should be taken to help future-proof the industry.

Among its proposals, the report suggests viewing the industry as an ‘eating ecosystem’ entity, taking changes in consumer behaviour into account, and ways in which the sector can build success in the ‘new normal’. The proposals also call on the UK Government to address the UK’s negative balance of food trade.

“COVID-19 has challenged the UK food and drink industry in a once-in-a-generation way,” Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) and coordinator of the report, said. “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.

“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 £24 billion in food. Assuming 30% of this could be produced efficiently in the UK, a balance of trade benefit of up to £8 billion 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 £460 billion to the national economy, employing millions of people across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The ‘path to recovery’ proposals provide the opportunity to build on that success, and deliver new gains for society across the UK as we emerge from this pandemic.”

To read the full report, visit: nifda.co.uk

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