How will the UK food industry fair after Brexit?

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The food and drink exporting industry is flying high at the moment. In the first half of 2018 figures showed significant growth. Despite exports hitting £10.7bn, there is still a large shadow of uncertainty looming over the industry. The shadow in question is cast by Brexit.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is eager to ensure the upward trend continues, and are calling for support to ensure political uncertainty doesn’t impact the growth of exports in this sector. Of particular concern to the FDF is the fact the largest growth, by quite a margin, was generated by an increase in exports to European countries.

What are the potential problems with Brexit?

With little to no information about a final deal, the industry has to assume the cost of exporting goods to Europe is going to increase. This will make them less competitive and not as attractive to buyers within Europe. This works both ways, and the UK’s press is already full of stories about forthcoming food shortages.

Even if the cost of exporting goods remained the same to UK food producers, the logistics of border crossings and regulatory hurdles will be in chaos for a while, at least until some ground rules are figured out. There will be no clear inspection guidelines for the ports post Brexit.

The additional costs facing the UK’s food export industry will squeeze the industry’s belt tighter. In order to stay competitive, they will need to look for new ways to cut their costs, ensuring their customers don’t suddenly face a large increase in prices and go elsewhere.

Ways food producers can start preparing

Many producers are already looking for ways to cut their overheads. As with many industries, a lot of them are turning to technology and automation to increase efficiency, reliability, and cut costs.

With automation developing at a good pace, there are already options open to producers that were not feasible even just a decade ago. Systems like SCADA offer them a real-world way to increase their profitability in order to offset some of the possible increases in the cost of exporting.

It records data in real time, which improves traceability for batches and individual ingredients. SCADA will analyse every part of the production process within the organisation. By monitoring the condition of equipment, it also helps to predict potentially costly failures. This means less downtime and usually less damage to equipment, which results in lower repair bills.

Addressing every facet

The food industry has a challenge ahead of it. In order to maintain competitiveness without compromising standards, they must improve and scale back costs at the same time, which is the Holy Grail for any business and rarely achieved painlessly.

Our food exports are a crucial part of the UK’s overall economic health. Ensuring we maintain or surpass all the regulatory requirements for consumer safety and production is as essential as ensuring our producers remain profitable and prosperous. Allowing recent growth to stagnate due to inaction will be a travesty for the food industry and the people of Britain.