‘Act now to boost UK food and drink’s global competitiveness’
10 Jul 2017
Government must act fast to ensure that the food and drink sector in Britain maintains its workforce and boosts its global competitiveness post-Brexit, warns a hard-hitting report from accountants Grant Thornton.
In the period 2006-15, the UK’s F&D grew its exports by 4%. However, the global average for the same period was 7%, said the company.
Pressure to compete internationally is likely to grow after the UK withdraws from the EU but the sector will face an additional challenge with the loss of a key part of its workforce.
It estimates the proportion of workers coming from the EU at 32.5% – one third of the total and much higher than the previously quoted 25%.
The report also reveals that the perception that food and drink is dominated by low skilled jobs is inaccurate – fewer than 9% of jobs are in this category. And with 40,000 of the labour force expected to retire in the next decade, a total of 140,000 new workers must be recruited by 2024.
Commenting on the report, Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright, whose organisation commissioned the work, said:
“The issues facing the food and drink industry are complex, but if we find the right solutions there is great reward – not just for our sector and the wider economy.
“We believe a new sector deal, working in partnership with government and the ‘farm-to-fork’ supply chain, will harness this potential.”
Among the recommendations made are greater collaboration from government, industry and educators to provide apprenticeship training and career information, more investment in research and innovation, and specialised export support to boost sales overseas.
Said Wright: “This detailed report by Grant Thornton charts the future shape of our industry for many years to come. It is a welcome assessment of the significant opportunities available to boost the productivity of the food and drink industry at a time of great economic uncertainty.”