15 November 1996

Still room for improvement

DEPUTY Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, told the seminar that, though the Strathclyde Project had helped raise competitiveness, there was plenty of room for improvement.

"The trade gap highlights competitive weakness," he said. "It is difficult to counter the conclusion that some (overseas) producers have been better at identifying what the customer wants and then supplying it at the right price and quality."

Part of the solution lay in encouraging inward investment by overseas companies, he believed. "I know some in your industry are wary of the competition. But studies have shown that the stimulus from inward investors leads to increased product development, and in many cases increased sales by the home-based industry."

This notion was broadly accepted by delegates. "It is better that food manufacturing plants are located in the UK to supply the EU, rather than being located elsewhere and supplying us," said Prof Susan Shaw of Strathclyde University.

"Inward investment can help add value to our products," added NFU director general, Richard MacDonald. "It is more worrying for UK manufacturers than UK farmers."

Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, believes inward investment by foreign companies is good for UKs food industry.