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Government must secure the future of our food industry

By Rick Pendrous, 09-Sep-2010

Related topics: Market Trends

Manufacturers and retailers have called for a “shared vision and strategy” with government to ensure the UK’s food and drink industry is sustainable and doesn’t descend into catastrophe.


They want the government to put an appropriate regulatory framework in place to ensure adequate resources to avoid global crises in the future.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) commissioned research from the Institute for Manufacturing's (IfM's) Centre for Industry and Government at the University of Cambridge. The result was a report, Future Scenarios for the UK Food and Drink Industry, which the FDF hopes will provide "a catalyst for debate" with the government.

The report is based on interviews and workshops with manufacturers, policy makers, civil society representatives, farmers and retailers. The scenarios considered are based around four possible futures determined by the origins of control and resources.

While the most desirable future was one where sufficient resources were available and consumer behaviours had responded to global pressures, manufacturers and retailers surprisingly preferred a situation where more government intervention was necessary.

FDF director of communications Julian Hunt believed this preference was, "because there are a lot of things for our sector that we cannot control and the obvious one that people talk about at the moment is energy policy and then you look at waste [policy] and it needs a framework from government".

Hunt added: "It's about putting in place the right structures and frameworks that give industry the kind of coherence to make investment decisions."

However, all participants recognised that resource demand would most likely outstrip supply unless action was taken. Even more disastrous would be the scenario where there was insufficient government control and a lack of engagement by people; a severe supply-demand gap, resulting in social unrest.

There is a need for a shared vision for the future of the UK's food industry based on strong evidence, consistent regulation and consumer engagement, the report's authors concluded.

Dominic Oughton, principal industrial fellow at IfM, said: "The idea is not to predict the future but if we can predict a range of possible futures and plan things that fit all of those then we have got a pretty robust set of strategies."