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 drinking, and the sector employs an estimated 500,000 people, but the food and drink strategy is aimed at expanding that.

EEDA has identified key themes which affect the whole supply chain.

It wants activity to focus on issues like training and encouraging more young people into the sector, boosting food exports and finding more routes to market for produce.

It also wants to position the region better as a food supplier to London and events such as the 2012 Olympics.

Farmers stand to benefit from the initiative, according to Pam Forbes, regional director of the NFU.

“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 and reconnecting people with the food they eat.”

Lady Caroline Cranbrook of the Country Land and Business Association said:

“The strategy will provide a route map for the industry to negotiate the hazards ahead.”