Exports to China vital to the future of UK food and drink

By Freddie Dawson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Uk food, International trade, China

On a slow boat to China. UK exports to China hold high promise
On a slow boat to China. UK exports to China hold high promise
Food and drink exports to China will prove key in helping UK manufacturers reverse falling margins, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

“As a growth market for the UK, China cannot be ignored. China, with its growing middle class, has turned from an export country to an import destination,”​ said Charlotte Lawson, FDF’s director of member services.

“We aim to double trade with China by 2015 to some £62bn, by supporting business building initiatives which enable UK food and drink manufacturers to gain access to this market,” ​she added.

Linda Kozlowski, director of global marketing and customer experience at trading website alibaba.com, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “ With the proliferation of the internet and e-commerce, plus increasingly fast and efficient global transport, it is possible for all types of food stuff to be bought and consumed anywhere in the world. UK food and beverage​ [manufacturers] need to make the most of these opportunities if they want to get ahead of the competition in these austere times.”

Imports have soared

Chinese food and drink imports have soared from £4.4bn in June to £5bn in July alone.

Meanwhile, food and non-alcoholic drink exports from the UK to China were worth about £64M last year, according to FDF statistics.

That represented a 28.5% increase on 2008 figures as manufacturers increasingly targeted the globe’s most populous nation.

Fish and seafood proved to be the largest export, with over £33M worth of fresh and frozen product moved to China last year.

But other categories have performed well too.” The data shows that there has been some progress with exponential percentage growth in product categories such as chocolate, sweet biscuits and breakfast cereals to name a few,”​ an FDF spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Numerous categories have grown from no exports to significant categories over the past 10 years including jams and preserves, whey, sweet biscuits and bread.

International markets

Maggie Choo, director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at alibaba.com, said: “It is fascinating to see how the food and drinks sector is embracing international markets by trading quintessentially British products with such a broad range of regions.

“As all UK SMEs are being encouraged by the government to trade globally, this data shows there are plenty of countries across the world demanding our wares.”

Alibaba.com also reported strong Chinese interest in honey and British shortbread. Worldwide, there has been a 15% increase in inquiries about British food and drinks and China is already one of the top 10 countries contributing to that trend, said Kozlowski.

In order to increase exports, the FDF is supporting the British presence at the FHC China exhibition in Shanghai where 20,000 buyers from across China will gather on November 14-18.

According to a statement the FDF will: “Ensure companies benefit from an enhanced and strongly branded UK presence at the show; a specially organised trade development visit for non-exhibiting companies to give them a taste of the market; and a meet the buyer initiative enabling companies to meet key customers from the retail and food service sectors.”

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