According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) the food and drink industry lost 3,000 jobs in Q4, following a decline in employment of 7,000 jobs in the preceding quarter.

The Federation said this is a fall of 0.9% in the industry’s labour force compared to Q3 2023, or 0.7% compared to Q4 2022. Total employment in the industry now stands at 450,000.

FDF head of industry growth, Caroline Keohane said: “The fall in the number of jobs in food and drink manufacturing is concerning in the Government’s bid to stimulate productivity and halve inflation. The outlook for our sector, which is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, continues to be one of labour and skills shortages, which are holding back growth.

“With vacancy rates double the national manufacturing average at 7%, the food and drink sector needs a more flexible approach to tackle the skills shortages that prevail at every level. Tomorrow’s budget provides a clear opportunity for the Chancellor to work with our industry, and support businesses to invest in innovation, automation and skills as we transition towards an even more productive and highly skilled sector.”

The Federation also stated: “ONS data shows that over the last year, on average, 72% of food and drink manufacturers stated they had to absorb rising costs. That compares with 56% of all companies across the UK and 53% of food retailers, suggesting that the industry has been disproportionately impacted by the rise in input costs during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, compared to the average UK business. It also suggests manufacturers absorbed a lot of pain to support households and did not share the full extent of rising costs.”