== Kirk Hunter ==

Chief executive, Scottish Association of Master Bakers

The "R" word is now out in the open. From the Prime Minister down, officialdom acknowledges what every baker has known for months - we are in recession.

The announcement this week that food sales have fallen in Britain for the first time since records began reinforces the point that bakers are not immune to these economic ill winds.

Bakers are already responding to these challenges, cutting costs, rationalising businesses, seeking greater efficiencies and developing new markets. But they need help.

There must be a reassessment of policies that add costs to businesses. We are already seeing friction between the green agenda and politicians’ growing awareness of their economy’s inability to pay the price.

Do the European Parliamentarians currently pushing through pesticide restrictions on farmers really understand the impact on cereal yields and food production? I am sure the electorate may have views on measures that artificially push up food prices at a time of recession.

Does the Food Standards Agency (FSA) accept that it is slightly unreasonable to be imposing on the baking industry the costs and risks of re-engineering products to meet the FSA’s ever stricter diet and health agenda, at a time when food companies’ margins are wafer thin?

Is there no understanding of the commercial facts of life?

Can the UK government put the debate on immigration onto a realistic footing? Immigrant labour is vital to the Scottish baking industry. With Scotland facing a demographic time bomb it is essential that we continue to attract a flow of skilled immigrants.

It is true that there is a vast untapped supply of workers already here for us to turn to. However, any baker in Scotland will tell you the difficulties in attracting these people into the industry. To restrict the supply of immigrant labour will be to seriously undermine our industry.