A strategy to boost the food and drink sector, including agriculture, has been launched by the East of England Development Agency.

Shoppers in the region already spend £9.4bn on groceries, eating out and drink, and the sector employs an estimated 500,000 people, but the food and drink strategy wants to expand that.  

EEDA has identified key themes such as innovation, new product development, skills, customer focus, global competitiveness and infrastructure.

It also believes that shoppers will increasingly demand convenience, health and pleasure in their food and drink, while eating out will become ever more popular.

In the longer term it is hoped the strategy will help to inspire and co-ordinate investment in the industry from right across the private and public sectors to help address long-term trends.

Points of focus include attracting younger workers into the sector with better training, and improving links between business and research institutes, as well as boosting exports and increasing the number of routes to market for local produce.

But the key to this vision will be what actions are taken to support it, and these have yet to be set.

Pam Forbes, regional director of the NFU, said: “These are challenging times for farming and we look forward to working with EEDA and other organisations on key issues such as boosting local markets for our quality food, encouraging greater business collaboration among farmers, and reconnecting people with the food they eat.”

For a copy of the strategy, go to http://www.eeda.org.uk/embedded_object.asp?docid=1004389