Food and drink firms have emerged as the key players in a projected rise of manufacturing output that experts hope will help pull the economy out of the double-dip recession it is experiencing.
Around 7% of all manufacturers surveyed in September by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said they expected to increase their volume of output over the next three months.
However, for the food and drink sectors the figure was far higher, with 32% of those questioned saying they expected output to increase, not excluding seasonal variations. A further 48% of manufacturers said output would remain the same, with 20% saying it would drop.
Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis, said: "Domestic and overseas demand have improved in this survey following last month's falls, providing a foundation for somewhat better output growth expectations."
Rise in export orders
The survey also revealed that food and drink manufacturers had seen a rise in export orders, compared with August. 45% of respondents said their export order books were 'above normal' with 52% stating it was 'normal'.
The positive outlook has been reinforced by the Food and Drink Federation's (FDF) Business Confidence survey, which reported positive levels of optimism for consecutive quarters for first time since the survey began in 2010.
Some 48% of survey respondents reported growth compared with the previous quarter, with a third of respondents reporting growth in exports. In addition, 50% of respondents had introduced new product lines in the second quarter of 2012.
'Holding your nerve'
Economic and commercial services director at the FDF, Steve Barnes, said: "It is really encouraging to see optimism among our survey respondents so far this year. Holding your nerve in this economic environment is by no means easy and is a great credit to our members in difficult times.
"Looking ahead, we expect to see both our domestic and overseas sales increase as we head towards Christmas. Our commitment to grow our industry by 20% by 2020 is ambitious and we remain confident that we will achieve this goal."
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the projected rise in output would make "a significant contribution to GDP [gross domestic product] growth".
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