Do those in power really get our industry?

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Rick Pendrous, editor, Food Manufacture
Rick Pendrous, editor, Food Manufacture

Related tags Common agricultural policy Industry

Does the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) really get the UK's food manufacturing industry?

It’s a question increasingly being asked by those in the sector as DEFRA – the food industry’s sponsor department in government – devotes its attention to farming matters and the rural environment rather than the nation's largest manufacturing sector, which contributes so much to its wealth.

No one disputes that issues such as Common Agricultural Policy reform, bovine TB and the badger cull, animal health and disease control, flood controls, and biodiversity are vitally important to the nation and capture the imagination of the electorate. As a consequence, DEFRA ministers and their opposite numbers in the Labour Party have information readily at hand to support their arguments on these issues. The same can't be said when it comes to policy on the food manufacturing sector.

The result is decisions that impact on the sector are all too often made on rather ill-informed evidence or in response to health lobby prejudices or pressure from powerful lobby groups such as the National Farmers Union.

If the UK is to achieve its true export potential, then food and drink manufacturers especially the smaller ones could do with a lot more practical support than they get at present. And, as well as an Agri-tech strategy, don't we also need a Food-tech strategy to ensure we have a sustainable food chain that is able to meet the huge challenges we face?

Perhaps it’s time the food sector became the responsibility of the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) rather than DEFRA, as some have been arguing for a while.

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