The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) celebrated its progress in growing the food and drink manufacturing sector at its annual President’s Reception in London last night.

It updated guests on the achievements in its Five-Fold Environmental Ambition initiative, as well as on the growth of the industry through exports and apprenticeships.

Among its successes for the year were that it had trebled the number of apprenticeships across the industry - beating its original target to double the numbers before the end of 2012.

Owen Paterson, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, gave a speech in which he referred to his support for genetically modified crops, in a bid to make food cheaper for consumers. He also spoke of how he’d like to see the current caps on the EU sugar market abolished in 2015, as proposed.

Paterson, said: “As our largest manufacturing sector, the food and drink industry has a key role to play in helping Defra realise its twin ambitions of growing the economy and improving the environment. That’s why we are committed to working with FDF to realise its vision of growth of 20% for the sector by 2020.

“Increasing skills and getting new people into the industry is vital, not just to this ambition but for the future of the sector as a whole. The doubling of the number of new apprenticeships in food and drink over the past year is a huge achievement and one of which the industry should be proud.”