UK food processors and hauliers urge fuel duty measures
The call from the UK's Food and Drink Federation and the UK Road Haulage Association comes on the foot of the European Commission's meeting yesterday to discuss policy responses to soaring oil and food prices. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that while member states are free to take short-term measures to combat inflationary commodity prices, the EU will consider tax incentives to promote the use of energy efficient technologies over fossil fuel dependency. Foodmakers An FDF spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com that while increased energy efficiency and fuel security measures are important factors, they should not be viewed in isolation. "Managing input costs is important for any food and drink manufacturing company and minimising these is essential for the sector's profitability. It is possible to eke out new efficiency gains but with the scale of price increases being experienced it is not possible to mitigate them entirely," claims the FDF spokesperson. "The [UK] Government could help to alleviate the increased input costs arising from rising fuel prices by not pressing ahead with its planned increase in fuel duty this autumn," argues the FDF. The agency said that the widespread adoption of best practice is at the heart of its Five-fold Environmental Ambition programme launched last October to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and food transport miles generated by the food manufacturing sector. "However, the adoption of best practice can only offer a partial solution to the challenges being faces by the sector," claims the spokesperson. Haulage Jack Semple, policy director for the Road Haulage Association, mirrors the sentiments of the food industry body, claiming that there is scope for the UK government to introduce regulation that could steady diesel and other fuel prices. UK hauliers and their European counterparts have been protesting in recent weeks over the continuing rise in fuel prices. "Financially, the industry cannot any longer take the hit," said Semple. "Since the beginning of the year, diesel prices have risen 14 per cent." The Commission also stated yesterday that it intends to promote energy savings in the transport sector through improving vehicle technologies and in the favouring of rail and waterways over road. Semple said that the potential for savings in the vehicle technology area was marginal with limited impact on mileage per gallon (MPG) and that the benefits of rail or water for moving freight are often overstated: "Road will remain the dominant freight network over the coming years as it offers reliability of service and flexibility in terms of loading/unloading and sourcing, and truck manufacturers have made huge strides in recent years in reducing vehicle pollution," he said. Semple claims, however, that food manufacturers can improve efficiency in the supply chain by re-examining their operations, planning ahead, giving advanced indication of busy periods to haulage companies and fully optimizing daily vehicle loading and unloading.