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Keeping the food industry moving in unprecedented times

27 March 2020

Food Processing has received a message from Ian Wright CBE, chief executive at the Food and Drink Federation, as the food industry enters unprecedented times. 

The decision of a number of UK supermarkets to speed up payments to suppliers will be hugely welcome news for thousands of small and medium sized manufacturers that make up the overwhelming majority of the UK’s food and drink industry. 

Speaking to Food Processing magazine, Ian Wright CBE, chief executive at the Food and Drink Federation, said that businesses depend on the timely payment of invoices from their customers and it has never been more important to keep the supply chain moving. Highly successful producers and, suppliers are under enormous pressure right now. Many of the challenges they face present profound risks for their cash flow situation.
“Access to working capital is the lifeblood of any business,” said Wright. “That is why Government’s unprecedented package of interventions and these individual company commitments are so important. More will be needed, particularly to address gaps in support for mid-sized businesses, and the banks face a huge task in delivering much of this support. To get through this crisis, we need to see a step-change in collaboration right across the supply chain, and even between competitors.
“The loss of sales into the out-of-home and food service sectors is a useful example of this. The impacts of closures across the hospitality sector are being keenly felt by their workers, business owners and also their many suppliers. Suppliers now need to find ways to repurpose products previously destined for food service to feed the nation and avoid food waste as a matter of great urgency.
“This will only be possible if businesses can find new and constructive ways in which to work together. We have, in recent days, seen the Competition and Markets Authority recognising this and providing assurances that competing businesses will be able to work together for the duration of this crisis to ensure the effective distribution of goods, including food and drink. This is very welcome to ensure production continues. Shop shelves need to be replenished to provide much-needed confidence to the UK’s understandably worried consumers.
“For good reason, much of the focus of business leaders in our industry remains on the hidden heroes in our industry. More than 430,000 people work in food and drink manufacturing and 4.3 million across the wider supply chain. I am keen to ensure our workers are recognised for their incredible efforts. Our talented and highly skilled workforce is doing so much up and down the country to keep the nation fed during this critical time.”
In conclusion, Wright said: “The contribution of our industry to the nation’s wellbeing has never been clearer. That is why I so frequently highlight the importance of food and drink to Government. Our industry is a key part of the country’s national infrastructure and must always be their priority.”

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