Speaking at the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Association annual conference, director general Melanie Leech (pictured) said the FDF wanted "to promote the competitiveness of the sector at a European level". She warned that the UK risked being left behind by other EU countries unless the situation improved.
The FDF's 2011 objectives included "to promote the economic importance of our sector, to ensure that the UK's biggest manufacturing sector is positioned at the heart of government's economic thinking", said Leech. In addition, the FDF would aim "to advocate a UK food strategy which puts a sustainable food sector at the heart of the UK economy, at EU level to influence the High Level Forum on Better Functioning of the EU Food Supply Chain".
Encouraging further investment in exports a key theme of the government's Advanced Manufacturing Growth Review was also a priority, said Leech. "We have been talking to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We have had six years of growth in exports, which are now worth more than £10bn. We know the potential is there. Exports are growing very rapidly."
The challenge was to capitalise on that with a proper food and drink export strategy. When Food from Britain, a major promoter of food and drink exports, was disbanded in 2009, several splinter groups formed. The FDF would work on a strategy with these, government and the Food and Drink Exporters Association, said Leech.
FDF human resources director Angela Coleshill said: "We are calling for an export strategy where UK Trade & Investment make food and drink a priority sector."
In addition, the FDF would pursue investment in modernising the supply chain and increased support for small to medium-sized enterprises, also following the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Review, said Coleshill.
War on red tape
The FDF today welcomed a government initiative that will enable companies and individuals a two-week window in which to comment on all existing legislation relating to food, drink and hospitality, plus general laws relating to employment, environment, law and health and safety.
Stakeholders have the chance to comment, via the government's Red Tape Challenge website, on which regulations should be kept, amended or scrapped altogether.
Welcoming the initiative, FDF director of communications Terry Jones said: “The food and drink industry is one of the most closely regulated industries in the UK and as its products are used daily by consumers we agree that reasonable controls are necessary.
"But we’ve reached a point where regulation is stifling our ability to innovate, to maintain competitive advantage at home and abroad and to create the employment flexibility that is critical to a hi-tech and fast-moving manufacturing industry.
"If Whitehall officials can’t provide a good enough reason for a regulation to be in place, it could be scrapped."