Food and Drink North East (FADNE) has contributed to the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (NELEP) report outlining the Impact of COVID-19 and the EU transition on the North East economy. Published last week, it spells out how our region is recovering from the effects of the pandemic and the exit from the EU.
FADNE have been flying the flag for our region’s food, drink and hospitality businesses since our formation and are constantly lobbying to ensure food and drink is part of our regional industrial strategy.
The food, drink and hospitality sector is a major employer here and an important driver for our urban and rural economies. It attracts local people and visitors to our towns and cities as well as playing a pivotal role in our regional identity, heritage and well being.
NELEP’s report outlines the challenges faced by our sector, specifically agriculture, food and drink and the rural economy. Highlighting that many of our local businesses have demonstrated their resilience and agility as they were forced to quickly change their business models and sell directly to customers because other routes to market were closed off because of the pandemic.
But now we’ve come out of lockdown, the Government’s furlough scheme has ended and Brexit begins to bite. The sector faces a triple whammy of staff shortages, increased red tape and supply chain issues. Add to that the extra borrowing many companies took on to get through the pandemic and it’s not surprising that a lot of our region’s food, drink and hospitality businesses are facing an uncertain future.
On a national, regional and global level, food and drink has never been more important both politically and socially. Supporting oteh sector, driving innovation and shortening of supply chains is imperative. Not just because we want to see our local businesses thrive and create more highly-skilled jobs for local people. And not just because the UK is no longer a member of the EU but more importantly because we must tackle the climate emergency.
That is why we were delighted to read this passage in NELEP’s report…
“There is a strong case that the agriculture, food and rural sectors should be given much greater priority in the North East Strategic Economic Plan, and in UK economic policy. The pandemic has demonstrated the UK’s reliance on strong local agriculture and food and drink supply chains, as well as highlighting the many opportunities and challenges facing
rural economies. These issues warrant a focused approach on investment in the sector to maximise its contribution to regional economic growth and wellbeing. It will be important that businesses in the sector have a strong voice in the future debate about North East economic priorities.”
We couldn’t agree more. Now let’s seize the moment and push on…