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November 17, 2016

UK frozen food firms feel “negative impact” of Brexit, says survey

The UK's referendum decision to leave the European Union has had a negative impact on 68% of frozen food businesses across the country, according to a British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) survey. 

The UK’s referendum decision to leave the European Union has had a negative impact on 68% of frozen food businesses across the country, according to a British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) survey.

The BFFF said the survey of its 300-plus members across the UK’s GBP8bn (US$9.9bn) frozen food industry also showed 55% of respondents are exporters, “but only 45% see Brexit as an opportunity to increase overseas trade”.

In addition, 30% of respondents said the result of last June’s referendum had had a negative effect on their investment decisions. Concerns about the availability of labour were also highlighted by respondents, “with several companies saying that the vote has already made it harder to recruit staff”, BFFF said.

BFFF chief executive officer John Hyman said: “Our survey reveals there is already an appetite to export, with 31% of the respondents calling for a new globally-focused trade policy. However, an overwhelming 64% want either no change to our current EU trading arrangements or free access without free movement of people post-Brexit.”

Hyman said he was encouraged by the government’s announcement last month of a five-year international “action plan for food and drink, which aims to boost the sector’s exports by GBP2.9bn but he urged ministers to “think beyond traditional food and drink exports”.

“There are many more opportunities beyond the products we have traditionally exported such as whisky, beef and shortbread,” Hyman said. “There needs to be a long-term commitment to a trade policy that enables and supports new and existing exporters.”

Hyman said: “Food is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. Given the challenges the whole food industry faces, it’s essential we speak to government with one voice. That’s why BFFF is working with the Food and Drink Federation to make our case to the government.”

Earlier this month, business consultants at Grant Thornton said the UK’s decision to leave the EU had increased overseas interest in food and drink companies in the country. The fall in the value of sterling has intensified already growing interest from suitors outside the UK in the country’s food sector, Grant Thornton claimed.

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