The white paper, published today by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and available for download here, outlines the government’s plan to create industrial clusters around the country to promote growth as the country leaves the EU.
“The opportunities – and challenges – for food and drink raised by exiting the EU are significant," the white paper stated. "To address this, we are committing to establishing a new partnership between government and the whole food chain, working with industry leaders from agriculture, food and drink manufacturing, retail, hospitality and logistics."
First on the agenda for the Food and Drink Sector Council will be “to build on emerging proposals for a sector deal in food and drink manufacturing, including support to transform exports and capitalise on its unique innovation opportunities in sustainable agriculture and food manufacturing."
The paper cites the example of the Norwich Research Park, an agri-tech research centre with an annual research expenditure of over £230m (€257m). The site also houses 70 research-based business companies and in 2018 will be opening the Quadram Institute, specialising in genetic research on the role microbiomes play in human health and disease. "This is already attracting the attention of major food businesses worldwide," said the paper.
Trade group, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said it hoped the council would generate growth for the industry, particularly with regard to exports. Although food and drink exports have been increasing over recent years, FDF said that four out of five manufacturers do not export to foreign markets – “a considerable untapped opportunity for the industry”.
The association's director general Ian Wright welcomed the announcement as “great news”.
“We have been calling for a Food and Drink Sector Council for some time and this is recognition from Government of the central importance of the food and drink supply chain to the economy,” said Wright.
“UK food and drink is a major national asset and the envy of the world. The creation of the Council acknowledges the importance of the sector to both national security and economic growth, and will allow us to unlock our very significant productivity potential and secure our position as a global leader in safe, sustainable, and high-quality food and drink.
Going forward, Wright said FDF would continue to work closely with both the Department of Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and BEIS to ensure “a transformative sector deal” for food and drink manufacturers.
The UK’s food and farming industry employs almost four million people and is worth £112 billion (€125.3bn)