The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) believe that tomorrow’s Food and Drink Summit to be held in 10 Downing Street (16th May) is a critical opportunity for the Government and industry to join forces on driving down food and drink price inflation.
The FDF trade organisation says the Government must use the meeting as an opportunity to fully engage the food and drink sector on initiatives to drive growth, increase productivity and create jobs, while driving down food and drink price inflation.
Furthermore, FDF says that Government could help take the heat out of high prices by addressing poor regulation, not least the proposed costs of Extended Producer Responsibility, alongside minimising new labelling costs flowing from the Windsor Framework and friction at UK borders.
With food prices reaching a 45-year high after three turbulent years for the sector, businesses in farming, manufacturing and retail are working tirelessly to keep food and drink affordable for households. The FDF also asserts that Government must join this effort. While a series of recent economic shocks have clearly driven inflation, the trade body believes there are things that Government can still do to ensure that inflation eases.
Industry intelligence indicates that four out of five companies are absorbing additional costs in their margins and that food and drink manufacturers are doing all they can to protect households from the price rises. The FDF is calling on Government to work together with the sector to make sure food and drink price inflation comes down as fast as possible.
Chief executive of the FDF, Karen Betts, commented: “The No 10 Summit is timely. The food and drink sector has been under considerable pressure over the 2-3 years as we’ve grappled with COVID, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the stark cost rises that have flowed from these.
“We want the summit to forge a better partnership between Government and our sector, not least to address the highest food and drink price inflation in 45 years. There’s work to be done to unlock the huge potential of our sector to invest in technology, innovation, sustainability and future skills right across the UK, which would enhance our global competitiveness, grow our businesses and deepen our resilience.
“Government must focus too on how regulation is contributing to food and drink price inflation. Some regulation is actually inflating costs, not driving them down, where the same outcomes could be delivered in more effective and less costly ways. A lack of join-up between Government departments, and a lack of clarity in Government teams developing regulation and post-Brexit trading rules, is forcing cost and complexity onto our businesses.”
She added: “Critical changes must be made to plans for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) so it prompts vital reforms to drive up the UK’s low recycling rates. Defra’s plans are simply to tax businesses more without assurances on what this extra money will achieve. The impact of EPR and other regulation will cause food and drink price inflation to persist longer than it needs to. Government needs to be laser focused on good regulation and driving competitiveness and growth. If they aren’t, shoppers will pay the price in the weekly shop.”
NFU Scotland will also be attending the summit and its President Martin Kennedy added: “This summit must shine a spotlight on the nation’s food supply chain and give urgent consideration to the measures needed to ensure that the clear vulnerabilities in our food security are never again exposed to the extent that they are now.
“We welcome the Prime Minister fulfilling his commitment to host this summit. This must be the start of a process that delivers long-term change in the way the Government views the importance of a safe, sustainable, and affordable supply of home-produced food, with full recognition of the cost of its production, and that it acts to invigorate domestic production and reduce our reliance on imports.”
Kennedy continued: “Empty shelves in major retailers over the past 18-months are a stark wake-up call to all parts of the food supply chain that domestic supplies of food cannot be taken for granted and it is inherent on all, including Government, that this issue is addressed. The nation’s consumers expect and deserve no less. Given the growing importance of food security, this summit must be seen as the start of long-term commitment to review and address the shortfalls in our food security resilience and instil greater fairness into supply chains.”
Karen Betts concluded: “The food and drink sector stands ready to work with Government on priority areas, in a genuine partnership to help grow the economy and minimise the impact of inflation.”