UK food and drink manufacturing endures challenging period

The latest industry results for UK manufacturing within the food and drink industries, which includes snacks, bakery and confectionery markets, showing that jobs figures for the quarter are down is a concerning factor indeed.

According to the Food and Drink Federation, there was a total of 10,000 fewer jobs in the wider sector within the past couple of months, which has underlined the squeeze on the economy that has hit the nation, and indeed globally during the past year.

The country’s chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is unveiling his Spring Budget today, which has been billed as a ‘back to work’ focused, in providing additional childcare assistance, and other moves that could potentially assist businesses, which is likely to be welcomed by the sector. Notably, the Office for Budget Responsibility has now revised its forecast to project that the UK will in fact narrowly avoid recession in 2023, though it will still contract by 0.2% for the period, which remains concerning.

Furthermore, while there have been the slightest of hints that the inflation costs in the UK – which were running at record 40-year highs of 16% in the food and drink sector, including for confectionery, may marginally be starting to ease, this is not likely to fall significantly within the coming months, meaning an environment of uncertainty continues.

According to the FDF, it has outlined several core areas that need to be focused on to bring about positive change. This includes a review of the R&D tax credit system of supporting innovation in industry, measures to reduce inflation within the sector, and backing the industry to deliver on energy efficiency moves to improve productivity.

In addition, according to the industry body, regulatory reform is required in relation to management of packaging waste, as well as enhancing quality and safety regulations to ensure they are even clearer and more precise.

Though it does not mention the word “Brexit’ – this is all but implied in the latter of the FDF’s call for working with the government on its import and export borders. Presently, as Confectionery Production has previously reported at length, we have encountered far too many instances of small and medium-sized businesses being unable to trade effectively with mainland Europe due to the additional administrative hurdles they now collectively face. It’s now a lot more expensive and time-consuming doing business with our near neighbours since the full impact of the Brexit deal is now being felt. It’s no what anyone either wanted, or indeed voted for seven years ago.

But there may potentially be some light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the UK government’s most recent discussions with the EU on potential for closer co-operation in the coming months and years ahead on a number of issues, so we shall remain hopeful that the good will that is sprouting, actually comes to fruition in the fullness of time.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production

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