The UK government is to establish a Food and Drink Sector Council to support the industry’s supply chain.

It announced the move today (27 November) as part of its Industrial Strategy White Paper, intended to boost fast growing sectors. 

Industry body, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). said the creation of the Sector Council recognises the importance of the many sub-sectors that make up the nation’s GBP112bn (US$149.66bn) ‘farm to fork’ food chain which employs nearly four million people.

FDF said that since April it has been working closely with The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on a set of proposals as part of a food and drink manufacturing sector deal to increase productivity gains, while providing stability to one of the industries most affected by Brexit, the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The Government’s recent Made Smarter Industrial Digitalisation Review report estimated that the food and drink industry could add an additional GBP55bn to the economy over the next decade through improved digitalisation alone.

FDF also points out that just one in five food and drink manufacturers in the UK currently sell to foreign markets, presenting an untapped opportunity for the industry.

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It said it hopes that the Sector Council will enable industry growth, with exports, innovation and skills seen as priority areas for both food and drink manufacturing and the other sectors which make up the food chain.

Ian Wright, FDF director general, said: “This is great news. We have been calling for a Food and Drink Sector Council for some time and this is recognition from Government of the central importance of the food and drink supply chain to the economy.

“UK food and drink is a major national asset and the envy of the world. The creation of the Council acknowledges the importance of the sector to both national security and economic growth, and will allow us to unlock our very significant productivity potential and secure our position as a global leader in safe, sustainable, and high-quality food and drink.

“We will continue to work closely with both Defra and BEIS to ensure we secure a transformative sector deal for food and drink manufacturing.”

There is little detail at this stage of how the Sector Council will operate. A BEIS spokesman told just-food more information would be forthcoming in due course.