Since the decision to leave the European Union was taken in June 2016, there has been a period of uncertainty for UK industries, including the food and drink industry. Negotiations between the UK and the EU have been ongoing, but it is still not clear what the final deal will be or even if there will be one.
Concerns have been expressed at every level of the food industry. Farmers are worried about a shortage in the workforce as the seasonal migrant workers may be discouraged from coming. PSL has remained committed to helping food procurers to obtain good-quality food at the lowest prices, but as the value of the pound has dropped, prices have risen, and the hospitality industry has faced a dilemma as they try to balance the quality of their menus without increasing prices too much for their customers. There are also concerns about how food standards might change as the UK has to renegotiate trade deals with countries beyond the EU.
However, despite the uncertainties, the food and drink industry is looking to the future and how it can adapt to the post-Brexit situation. With the support of food manufacturers and farmers, the government is planning to boost food exports and is devising a new “gold-standard” that will measure food quality and showcase the excellence of British food exports.
This scheme was unveiled by Environment Secretary Michael Gove at the Oxford Farming Conference. In his speech, he praised the excellence of some of Britain’s regional foods such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Devon and Welsh lamb and Cumberland sausage.
He also acknowledged the value of existing food quality schemes such as Red Tractor but pointed out that there is no single, scaled measure for farmers and producers to show their quality across a number of indicators. The plan is to highlight the standards achieved on animal welfare, pollution control, soil health and water quality. He named some products, including Botanist Gin, Belvoir soft drinks, H Foreman & Son’s London-cured smoked salmon and Tyrells crisps, as examples of UK foods that deliver these qualities.
Gove promised to champion British produce, planning to maintain its place in existing markets and to secure new trade deals. He aims to use the new “gold-standard” to showcase the standards of the British produce, emphasising the advantages of the traceability of the ingredients, their distinctive taste and the integrity of production. By emphasising the high standard of the produce, British food and farming could succeed in global markets and become world-leaders in quality.
However the situation develops, PSL will continue to link food procurers with good-quality suppliers and maintain its other services, including “What’s In My Dish”, a service that helps chefs build allergen-compliant menus that meet the new laws. We will also continue to monitor the political developments and will keep you informed on how these will impact on the food and drink industry, as well as being ready to adapt to any changes that the exit from the EU will bring.