Food and Drink Federation offers cautious welcome to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest UK budget
The UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has offered a cautious welcome to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn budget today, which promised support for many areas of the economy with a spending round totalling £150 billion, reports Neill Barston.
Among the core measures confirmed was a commitment to reforming the present, much criticised business rates system, with a 50% discount for hard-hit retail and hospitality firms, many of which have struggled amid the pandemic and lockdown measures.
While the FDF, which represents a wide range of businesses from across the sector, including those within the confectionery, snacks and bakery markets, felt there were promising elements to the chancellor’s autumn statement, it stressed concerns regarding the ongoing labour shortage that has resulted in major supply chain challenges and staffing shortages at retailing hospitality venues across the country.
The latest budget comes as the UK economy was predicted to return to pre-covid levels by 2022, experiencing growth of 6.5% this year, despite a number of challenges impacting on business sectors including the pandemic and post-Brexit trading issues that have notably increased the cost and logistical requirements surrounding trade with the UK’s closest neighbours within Europe.
Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation, noted there remained concerns regarding the level of inflation, as well as a perceived lack of identifying support for logistics chains that remain vital to the sector.
He said: “Food and drink manufacturers – and the farm to fork supply chain – will applaud the moves made by the Chancellor in the direction of a higher skilled, more productive UK economy. As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, with a footprint in every constituency, food and drink is ideally placed to contribute. For many of our manufacturers and producers there was welcome news – the 50% cut in business rates for hospitality, the simplification of alcohol duty and the additional support for R&D. On the latter we will campaign hard to ensure it is fairly shared out so that it creates step change in how smaller food and drink businesses innovate.
“We support the Government’s Plan for Growth – but its success should be judged on whether it delivers the skilled people that we so desperately need. Today’s Budget does little to address the labour shortages which grip the nation. It was also worryingly short on action to tackle rising inflation. Given the pressures they are facing, many manufacturers will simply have no choice but continue to pass costs down the chain.”