David Cameron visited Asda in Clapham Junction

David Cameron visits Asda in Clapham Junction

Grocery has been right at the heart of the election campaign this week: from David Cameron visiting Sainsbury’s digital innovation lab and Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Lindley kicking off Ed Miliband’s business manifesto, to the food and drink heavyweights supporting a broadside against Labour in the Daily Telegraph.

Politicians’ desire to seek out the endorsement (explicit or implied) of food and drink companies is welcome recognition of the industry’s unrivalled role as an employer, exporter and innovator - and its deep connection with British consumers.

“As polling day approaches, photo calls must be backed up with real clarity on policy”

But as polling day approaches, photo calls must be backed up with real clarity on policy. This should include tangible, long-term commitments for raising the profile of the food and drink sector within government, ensuring it is given a share of voice commensurate with its importance to the UK economy.

In an exclusive Q&A with The Grocer this week, David Cameron gives insight into some of the thinking that would underpin the approach of a Tory-led government to food and drink. (We have also reached out to Ed Miliband’s team.) 

Industry leaders will be heartened by his stating it is the role of “the whole of government” to push the interests of the grocery sector (not just Defra or BIS), though they will be keen to hear about specific proposals to deliver on this commitment. In this context, the idea of a dedicated UK food economy minister - as recently floated by the National Centre for Universities and Business - deserves serious consideration.

Cameron’s plans for a review of the Adjudicator, the assertion that “for too long the balance of power in the food supply chain hasn’t always been right”, as well as his position on the living wage, also provide food for thought. But there was one key policy area he chose not to shed light on - the future of the FSA. With Labour supposedly keen on a review (but so far not offering much in the way of detail), this is an area of considerable uncertainty. Our question about the FSA’s future under a Tory government, however, was returned unanswered. 

With manifestos out shortly, here’s hoping it won’t remain unanswered for much longer - by any of the political parties.