Food and drink manufacturers could look forward to more support from government to help them lift their exports, following the results of a new study commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The research, being conducted by accountancy and consultancy firm Grant Thornton, is investigating the barriers to exports British firms face in the sector. It is expected to be published towards the end of the year or early in 2013.
The study, involving interviews with industry stakeholders, follows an earlier piece of work commissioned from Grant Thornton by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) looking into barriers to growth in the sector. This formed part of the FDF plans supported by the government announced last December to grow the sector by 20% by 2020.
Lost market share
Despite growing exports by 5.4% year on year between 2000 and 2010, the UK has lost market share as world exports grew by 10%. As a result, the UK is likely to face increasing competition in the future, said Grant Thornton.
"Hopefully, what the DEFRA report will do is lead to some positive change, which will help the industry," said Trefor Griffith, head of food and beverage for Grant Thornton.
"In the 2020 report there is a big part on exports and DEFRA said we need to understand this further; what the real barriers for exports are and how can they be changed so that as a country we can export more."
While there have been some notable export success stories such as Tyrrells crisps, which are now even being sold in France all too often UK firms have failed to exploit potential overseas markets, said Griffith.
Even though UK Trade and Investment continues to provide support for exporters, many small companies have lamented the loss of the direct financial assistance that used to be provided by Food from Britain, the export support agency closed by the last Labour government in March 2009.
"I will be interested to hear what the barriers to exports are and what can be done to try to break them down," said Griffith. "Hopefully that will lead to positive change within the industry."
He noted that far more government support to seek out export markets was available to food and drink manufacturers in Ireland than in the UK.