Millar McCowan and TQF may not be names that are immediately familiar but their demise this week is yet another reminder of the fragile state of food and drink manufacturing in this country. The Scottish confectioner and English meat manufacturer join a growing list of companies to have been placed into administration or receivership, or to have gone into liquidation this year.

Surprisingly, when trying to get the exact number of failures in our sector in the past 12 months I discovered our industry bodies did not have data readily to hand. But you have only to look at the amount of factory closures since the start of this year, as companies rationalise facilities and shift production offshore, to know there is something afoot - and it's not good news for any of us.

How can this be? This is the largest manufacturing sector in the country, producing world-class products and employing thousands of people. Yet government seems happy to sit idly by and allow it to go the way other industries have gone.

Yes, food and drink suppliers are no different than others in that they have been hit by rising fuel and wage costs. But small food and drink companies in particular face something quite different than those in other sectors - and that is the power of the retailers.

Grant Thornton's Duncan Swift has called on the Competition Commission to examine the cause of manufacturing failures (p7). He estimates the number of businesses failing because of harsh treatment by supermarkets to be well into double figures.

Retailers may dispute this and, indeed, they may have a point. But until someone investigates we will never know the true picture and the voice of small manufacturers will continue to go unheard.