Brexit, productivity and nutrition: UK Food and Drink Council’s key priorities for 2018

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United kingdom, European union

The first Food and Drink Sector Council met this week with the aim of making UK manufacturers "more competitive"
The first Food and Drink Sector Council met this week with the aim of making UK manufacturers "more competitive"
Boosting skills, lifting agricultural productivity, improving the UK’s diet and dealing with the fallout from Brexit were identified as priorities for the coming 12 months at the first UK Food and Drink Sector Council meeting.

The Council brings together UK business leaders and government with the aim of making the country's food and beverage suppliers more “resilient, sustainable and competitive”.

Members include “leading industry figures”​ from the agricultural, manufacturing, retail, logistics and hospitality sectors, according to a joint statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Iain Ferguson, joint chair of the Food and Drink Sector Council and chairman Stobart Group said that the meeting was possible “due to the huge amount of work and commitment”​ to bring the sector together.

“It is exciting to see everyone in the same room working together to address the opportunities and challenges we face as an industry,”​ he added.

The Council will now establish expert working groups to develop recommendations for industry and government on each of its priorities.

Brexit remains centre stage

While the Council is working to establish a joint strategy on a variety of wide-ranging challenges, the impact that Brexit will have on food makers remained a focal point.

The Council was formed by the UK government in November last year as part of its Industrial Strategy Whitepaper​ in a bid to foster growth and promote exports after the UK leaves the European Union. 

“From Scotch whisky, to award winning cheeses and premium seafood, the produce from our thriving food and drink sector is in demand and enjoyed around the world. Through our modern Industrial Strategy and the Food and Drink Sector Council, the government is working together with industry to build on these exceptional strengths, boost its productivity and seize the future opportunities of this national success story,​” UK Business Secretary Greg Clark said this week.

Safeguarding the industry’s prospects after Brexit remained a key ambition for the Council, with representatives also agreeing the significance of building on “emerging proposals to establish a sector deal”​ for the industry.

Speaking following the meeting, UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said it was a “significant step forward​” in “supporting this vital industry​”.

Gove continued: “This ambitious partnership between government and industry will secure the UK’s position as a global leader in sustainable, affordable and high-quality food and drink. Increasing productivity will also benefit consumers and businesses, creating jobs and providing a real boost to our economy.”

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