Food industry bodies demand "pause" on policy reforms

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More than 30 food industry trade bodies have called on the government to “pause” key consultations affecting the industry, including a Deposit Return Scheme for England and Wales, until Brexit uncertainty is over.

In a strongly-worded letter to environment secretary Michael Gove, the organisations said they did not have the resources to currently engage with or respond to non-Brexit related policy consultations.

“Businesses throughout the UK food chain – and their trade associations - are now totally focused on working to mitigate the catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit. Large amounts of time, money, people and effort are being diverted to that end,” the letter states.

“At this moment of potential crisis for our industry, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ within government.”

The 32 signatories included representatives of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD), the British Frozen Food Association, the National Farmers’ Union, the British Growers Association, Dairy UK, and the Federation of Bakers.

Consultations they are expecting but would like to see delayed include a Deposit Return Scheme for England & Wales; proposals to further restrict the advertising of HFSS foods and drink; an overhaul of the current Producer Responsibility programme; and proposals for a tax on plastic items with less than 30% recycled content.

“If government seeks to press ahead with these consultations it will be seen by some as a sign of bad faith and many organisations may decline to respond,” the organisations said.

The government is yet to publish its DRS consultation despite initially planning to do so in January. 

A Defra spokeswoman said the environment secretary would respond formally to the letter in due course. 

“Leaving the EU with a deal remains the government’s top priority, and we are meeting weekly with representatives from our food and drink industry to help prepare for all scenarios,” she added.

“While we have intensified our no deal planning, we are continuing to tackle other priority issues that matter to people, including our plans to reduce plastic waste and deliver a Green Brexit.”

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