Farming:

Moving swiftly to ease labour shortages, supporting productivity-boosting technologies such as automation and advanced digital technologies and ensuring a smoothly running UK internal market were among the food industry’s asks of the new Prime Minister.

Writing to the prospective candidates as the competition heated up, the Food and Drink Federation yesterday reminded the hopefuls that nearly 500,000 people were directly employed in the sector – with many more indirectly throughout the supply chain.

“But our industry cannot be taken for granted,” stated Karen Betts, the federations chief executive.

“Our success is hard won. Our margins are slim and have been relentlessly squeezed by the pandemic and its impacts, and now by the crisis in Ukraine. All our companies are doing everything they can to contain the impacts of inflation. We know we have a responsibility to provide good and affordable food, and we are cutting costs everywhere we can to limit price rises for shoppers.”

The organisation also called for the costs of regulation to be addressed:

“It’s not clear to us that leaving the EU is, so far, resulting in the UK adopting a more agile and proportionate regulatory regime. A good deal of current regulation is actually imposing new costs on our industry without a clear benefit in return.”

And the threat of divergent regulatory approaches across the UK internal market would, said Betts, only exacerbate the situation:

“If our sector cannot operate seamlessly across the UK because of divergent regulatory regimes across the UK’s four nations, our costs will go up,” she warned.

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