Independent food and beverage sector seeks Government support
Food from England has called on the Government in a letter to support England’s independent food and drink sector amid cost-of-living crisis.
Food From England (FFE), a national platform made up of 26 food and beverage organisations, has issued an urgent letter to Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Prime Minister, and all UK MP’s seeking support for the sector in relation to the cost-of-living crisis.
New Food recently reported that up to a third of hospitality businesses could go bust by 2023 due to the economic difficulties relating to the cost-of-living crisis. What’s more, in October 2022, food inflation hit a 45 year high in the UK, resulting in a variety of challenges for the sector.
Hoping to act as the voice for over 43,000 local growers, producers, retailers and hospitality businesses in the food and beverage industry, FFE has urged the Government to take action in the following areas:
- Extend the Energy Bill Relief Scheme to 30 June 2023
- Provide additional support, such as grant funding, to high-energy using food businesses to invest in a wide range of green energy solutions.
- Extend the seasonal worker scheme beyond December 2022 across all sectors in the food and drink industry to avoid further part closures due to staffing shortages in 2023.
- Devise a fairer business rate system that will support smaller businesses in the longer term.
- Provide capacity-building support to regional food groups in England.
According to Produced in Kent, a south-east England based trade association, the local independent food and drink industry is in “peril” as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.
It has said that rising costs of imported ingredients and materials, supply chain issues, continuing staffing shortages and heightened energy and fuel prices have all contributed to a steep increase in production costs.
With local businesses struggling to absorb the additional cost due to tight profit margins, many may have to pass these increased costs on to customers amid a cost-of-living crisis, making an already challenging economic time for consumers worse.
“Unfortunately, right now many of our members are calculating the cost of being in business and it’s just not stacking up; the cost of ingredients, the lack of skilled staff and the cost of energy are tipping them over the edge,” said Floortje Hoette, Chief Executive of Produced in Kent.
“With customers already looking at cutting their expenditure, passing those costs on is simply not viable.”
To assist local businesses, FFE is reportedly planning to launch a ‘DON’T LOSE IT, USE IT!’ consumer campaign which will urge customers to buy local and support independent food and drink businesses this winter.
Commenting on the challenges for the sector, Rachel Mallows MBE DL, a Spokesperson for FFE and Director at Made in Northamptonshire, said: “The COVID-19 lockdown saw both the demise of many artisan producers, and food outlets disappearing overnight.
“If we do not support the industry now, we will see a repeat of this tragic loss of livelihoods, skills, employment, and community, possibly on an even larger scale.”