There's a surprising amount of movement in the food manufacturing industry that belies the prophets of doom. Yes, margins do remain tight and commodity prices will continue to fall. The power of the retailers is considerable and manufacturing is ever more competitive. Yet that does not mean there is no place for innovation nor that there is no opportunity for profit. Indeed, last week's cheering results from Geest show just how successfully a company can reinvent itself. Yesterday's banana business is today's prepared meal supplier, adding value where once it sold a commodity. Clearly, too, the big boys are on the march again. Unilever's pursuit of Bestfoods and its thoroughgoing reorganisation of its food arm, presages an increasingly effective concentration on this part of its business. In the US, Philip Morris will soon complete the formalities for the purchase of Nabisco and then integrate it into the Kraft operation. That will make Kraft the biggest food business in the world. Phillip Morris plans a departure from past practice and will bring Kraft to the market and offer a significant proportion of its shares to the public. Nestlé, too, has revamped its corporate image to give all its products the distinctive Nestlé label while at Unigate, Ross Buckland will soon have carried through his restructuring and we shall then have to wait to see whether that makes him a buyer or the bought! So all this activity certainly suggests that food manufacture is not the declining business that so many commentators have presaged. There are profits to be made by seriously competitive companies that recognise the opportunities of a society where fewer and fewer people have the time and inclination to prepare and cook food for themselves. John Selwyn Gummer MP Former farm minister and environment secretary {{NEWS }}