“We are going to leave the EU and it is absolutely fundamental to our future that we unite and have a shared strategy along the Bord Bia lines whereby we can work with government,” said Minette Batters, deputy president of the National Farmers Union.
Batters was speaking at a seminar on policy priorities for the UK food, drink and farming industry, organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum in London last month.
At the event, Sarah Church, director for food and farming at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), explained how UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) and the Great British Food Unit were tasked with supporting UK food and drink exports.
But, while the government was providing support at an export policy level, it tended to fall down on food and drink promotions, claimed David Williamson, director of public affairs at the Scotch Whisky Association. Other delegates agreed with this view.
“Bord Bia has 110 staff and a budget of euro 50M a year to sell and promote Irish food around the globe,” said Michael Bell, executive director for Northern Ireland Food & Drink. “Pro rata for the UK, that looks like 600-odd staff and £200M of a budget – why don’t we create it?”
Rob Ward, co-founder of Grocery Accelerator, which identifies investment funding for start-ups, added: “It is disappointing to walk around trade shows around the world to see trade spends that are frankly enormous compared with the fairly pathetic British [spend].
‘Catalyst we need’
“And if there is anything the government can do to help – that it is actually the catalyst we need.”
Angela Coleshill, competitiveness director for the Food & Drink Federation, also called for greater support for exporters. “There is a real gap and we see it with the organisation we partner with, the Food and Drink Exporters Association,” she said.
“They are a small organisation but they are driven by where they get their funds from and there is good support for them in Scotland; good support for them Wales, but in England it’s so limited that it is not going to drive where we need to be.”