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UK report charts a way back to prosperity for the food & drinks industry in the post-pandemic future

A 'path to recovery' for the food industry has just been published by the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA). It contains proposals outlining action that the UK government and industry can take to "future proof the sector".

Michael BellMichael Bell, Executive Director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) and coordinator of the report said, "The Government needs to reassess its policy on food and drink. For too long, successive governments have been content to witness continual decline in self-sufficiency in food. The strain that Covid-19 has put on the food chain has exposed the inherent weaknesses in this approach, and we now have an opportunity to reverse that trend. It will require serious investment, but the economic and societal gains would be immense. The UK currently has a trade deficit of some £24billion in food. Assuming 30% of this could be produced efficiently in the UK, a balance of trade benefit of up to £8 billion could be realised."

He further detailed that the UK's food and drink industry and the wider 'eating ecosystem' of other sectors it supports, including farming, transport and logistics, cold stores, packaging, catering, food service and retail, contribute £460 billion to the UK economy, employing millions of people. "The 'path to recovery' proposals provide the opportunity to build on that success and deliver new gains for society across the UK as we emerge from this pandemic."

In an update, Bell said, "Covid-19 has been a once in a generation challenge, and it has come at a time as industry is also bracing itself for the UK's departure from the European Union. However now Government and industry have an opportunity to build a path to recovery post-Covid, whilst developing a new post-Brexit UK food policy. Our proposals ask government to assess the impact of our national food supply on the environment, animal welfare, rural-society and balance of trade. The UK's balance of trade has been declining for decades and addressing that issue doesn't just mean increasing the amount we self-produce, but also boosting exports."

President von der Leyen commented that the fight against the coronavirus affects all parts of the European economy: "One of the sectors where we will tolerate no disruption whatsoever is that of food. We stand by our farmers in these challenging times."