Food industry reaction to Chancellor’s ‘mini budget’

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The food and drink industry has reacted to the Chancellor's Summer Economic Update
The food and drink industry has reacted to the Chancellor's Summer Economic Update

Related tags coronavirus Finance

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Summer Economic Update has been broadly welcomed by members of the food and drink industry, but concerns were raised over the speed at which the sector would be able to recover.

Rishi Sunak’s ‘mini-budget’ revealed a range of measures to help kick start the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,​ including a three-part plan to boost employment by supporting young people seeking work, creating new jobs and protecting the roles of the millions of people currently furloughed in the UK.

Commenting on the Chancellor’s statement, National Farmers Union (NFU) president Minette Batters warned the nation would face a long recovery to bounce back from COVID-19.

“We hope the announcement to stimulate the hospitality and tourism sectors by cutting VAT will see increasing demand, which will help British food flow back into our pubs, cafés and restaurants. This will start to ease the pressure many farm businesses are facing,”​ said Batters.

“There remain some challenges; not least for growers of cider apples and hops. While they will benefit from the hospitality sector reopening, they will not benefit from the measures today and may need further support. We look forward to further announcements by the Chancellor in the autumn on how his recovery package will support the rural economy.”

SWA response

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) was especially pleased with measures taken by the Government to incentivise businesses in the hospitality sector to reopen – specifically bars and pubs. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, alcoholic drinks manufacturers lost a significant percentage of their business.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “It is very good to see measures that encourage people to visit pubs, bars and restaurants once again – to socialise and to support those businesses – alongside a clear message from government that it is safe to enjoy a dram once again in a bar near you.

“Today’s announcements will also support Scotch whisky tourism and the reopening of Scotch whisky distillery visitor centres over the summer.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) hoped the Chancellor’s measures would lead to a significant boost in demand for the manufacturers that supply into hospitality and the out-of-home sectors and help them to manage increased supply costs.

However, it voiced fears surrounding the speed of the recovery and warned that if demand didn’t return quickly, these firms would struggle unless they received additional employment support.

Extending the furlough scheme

FDF chief executive Ian Wright added: “The Chancellor must therefore keep the option of extending full furlough support to hospitality and their food and drink suppliers in his back pocket, so we do not lose vital jobs and businesses.”

Despite his concerns, Wright applauded the Government’s intentions to increase employment opportunities for young people.

“The FDF is pleased that Government heeded our call to introduce cash incentives for employers taking on new apprentices,”​ he added.

“We would now welcome the opportunity to work with Government to ensure food and drinkmanufacturers can make the most of the schemes announced, as our industry offers great careers, in every constituency.”

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