The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has published a Trade and Investment Strategy that it claims will help “strengthen choice and affordability for UK households at a time of rising inflation.”

FDF’s aim is to “maximise the benefits of food and drink trade” by driving up exports, ensuring the UK is a global hub for innovation and R&D investment, and that imports support consumer choice, affordability and the UK’s food security.

The Trade and Investment Strategy includes 20 recommendations to “enable the UK government to deliver the greatest impact for the nation’s food and drink sector.” FDF claims that the strategy will enable the UK to bring “a consistent set of aims” both to FTA negotiations and to its wider trade policy for food and drink.

The strategy emphasises the importance of imports, high standards for animals and worker welfare, and contains ideas for how to approach these topics in trade negotiations. According to the report, any new preferential trade agreements must also insist on the need for high standards of production and environmental sustainability.

In particular, the FDF posits that the UK food and drink export promotion strategy should target its strengths in value-added production. FDF said that despite the UK being a net importer of food and drink, its comparative advantages in exports are genuinely strong. The strategy claims that export growth is a key driver of productivity and helps ensure continued competitive prices for consumers.

Curbing rising costs

FDF chief executive Karen Betts said: “The food and drink sector aims to offer shoppers unrivalled choice at affordable prices across a huge range of products. Trade is an important part of that, since we rely on imports of many ingredients that aren’t produced in the UK, like spices. We also export both traditional and innovative British products around the world, from our world-famous biscuits to gluten-free foods and salmon.

“Our report looks at how government and industry put food and drink at the heart of the UK’s new, independent trade policy, and ensures this supports companies in our sector to grow and thrive. Trade is also a means of curbing rising costs, which is particularly important now at a time of soaring inflation.

“This strategy sets out the strong partnership we want to continue to foster with the UK government and devolved administrations, so our industry can play its full role in growing UK exports and in using trade to deliver economic growth and prosperity across the UK, to communities up and down the country.”

An industry-government partnership

Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, said: “We want to see businesses fulfilling their trade and exporting potential, boosting green trade and growing our economy.

“The UK is home to world-class food and drink, and our ambitious trade deals will continue to open new markets for the excellent products made in the UK and sold to the world.”

Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice MP, said: “Our food industry is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined – and more evenly dispersed across our country.

“There are opportunities for our food and drink businesses in markets around the world, and we want everyone to be lining up to buy British. I look forward to working with the sector to ensure that businesses across the UK can take advantage of the opportunities ahead.”

The FDF’s UK Trade and Investment Strategy has been produced in partnership with Global Counsel, and can be accessed here.