UK Government taking our food system for granted, as investment falls

The food and drink sector employs 4.5m people across the UK, with manufacturing specifically employing 472,000 people across 12,515 UK businesses, data from Food & Drink Federation (FDF) highlights.

Yorkshire and the Humber, home to the likes of Harbio โ€“ one of Yorkshireโ€™s largest employers โ€“ is the food and drinkโ€™s biggest manufacturing sector. The area accounts for 16.2% of total manufacturing GVA and 22.1% of total manufacturing turnover.

However, despite being a key economic pillar to the UK, ONS data shows a sustained decline in investment into food and drink.

During the year to Q3 2023, investment actually fell by 33.2% compared to the same period in 2019. This is in contrast to the UK as a whole, which saw investment rise by 5.4%.

Ahead of tomorrowโ€™s Budgetโ€‹โ€‹, the FDF is calling on the UK Government to work with the sector to agree long-term policies that drive โ€˜vitalโ€™ private investment.

โ€œUnlike many industries, ours is spread evenly across the country, with regions of real strength like the Midlands, North of England, Scotlandโ€™s central belt and South Wales, where we provide good jobs and great careers in big companies and small,โ€โ€‹ commented FDFโ€™s chief executive, Karen Betts.

โ€œBut the government should not take our industry for granted. Our sector urgently needs investment โ€“ in science, innovation, automation and new technologies โ€“ if itโ€™s to remain the powerhouse that our country needs it to be into the future.โ€โ€‹

To help unlock further productivity and growth, the association is urging government to set up a formal food and drink innovation partnership and offer financial incentives through a Food and Drink Manufacturing Transformation Fund. This would help to accelerate the adoption of automation and digital technology.

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