The weak economy ­appears to have dulled the appetite for M&A deals in UK food.

Although global dealmaking continued apace, the number of deals in the UK dropped from 26 to 22 in the four months to August year-on-year, according to Oghma Partners.

The total value of deals fell from £1.1bn to £330m, although the 2010 figures were heavily skewed by two deals that were together worth £700m the sale of the John West Salmon business and Tate & Lyle's UK sugar operations.

Deals announced in the past four months include Greencore's proposed acquisition of Uniq, Growth Capital Partners' sale of its 40% stake in Tangerine Confectionery to Blackstone Group, and Symington's swoop for Unilever's Ragu and Chicken Tonight brands.

In stark contrast to Deloitte's upbeat prognosis for global M&A activity (see Saturday Essay, p20), Oghma partner Mark Lynch warned that the UK could see less activity. "Our figures may reflect early signs of a slowdown in M&A activity as concerns about a weaker economic outlook feed through," he said.

Bigger transactions could be affected by confidence because they relied on funding from the markets or support from banks or private equity sources that could be harder or riskier to secure, he added.

However, it was too early to say definitively that economic jitters were putting the brakes on M&A activity. Balance sheets were generally in better shape than a couple of years ago so companies were in a better position to buy, said Lynch. Cost reduction was still a top priority as was delivering economies of scale.