Food firms back DEFRA’s export plan

By Dan Colombini

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: International trade

Food firms are "delighted" with Spelman's plan
Food firms are "delighted" with Spelman's plan
Plans to use British foreign embassies to promote UK food and drink overseas have been welcomed by food manufacturers after new figures showed exports for the sector were rising.

Exports for the 9 month period, ending September 30, have risen by 12.2% compared with the same period last year, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), with growth expected to reach close to £12 billion for 2011.

The news follows reports on FoodManufacture.co.uk that secretary of state Caroline Spelman had urged the Foreign Office to follow Germany’s lead in utilising embassies to promote Britain’s products for trade overseas.

Food firms have “applauded​” Spelman’s plan and expressed “deligh​t” that the secretary of state is taking positive action to combat competition from abroad.

Delighted

FDF director of communications, Terry Jones said: “We have recently unveiled our vision for growing the industry by 20% by 2020. Although our work to underpin the vision demonstrated that much of that growth will come from exports. Importantly, Small to medium-sized businesses exporting it also told us that we need to work to accelerate that growth and that we face stiff competition from abroad.

“We are therefore delighted that the secretary of state has taken this early action which could contribute to that shared vision for the industry.”

The EU is currently the UKs’ biggest export customer. But this has recently come under threat from strong growth in emerging markets such as China, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, according to the FDF.

However, exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks from the UK remained strong for the 9 month period ending September 30, with trade to the EU again outperforming exports to non-EU markets.

Although there was a slowdown in the third quarter of 2011, there remained no evidence to suggest that exports would slow further into the new year, the FDF revealed.

Bureaucratic barriers

Meanwhile, later this month the food and drink industry will team up with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to unveil a joint exports strategy designed to make it easier for firms to break in to new markets.

The strategy is designed to open doors for firms by “removing some of the bureaucratic barriers”​ that currently exist within the EU export market.

Spelman urged food and drink manufacturers to fully exploit the strength of the British brand as a result. “The Made-in-Britain brand is strong and we can build on our reputation for quality and standards,​” she said.

She also highlighted China as a market ripe for development after Premier Wen Jiabao expressed his concern about food safety in the country and acknowledged UK expertise in the field.

Her thoughts on this opportunity were shared by Jones, who added: ““We recently joined forces with UK Trade and Investment and the Food and Drink Exporters Association for a trade show in China that generated several hundred business leads for the firms involved and demonstrates the value of a presence in target destinations to make links with important customers.

We feel that involving embassies in this way will be a step forward in helping us to be as successful as competitor nations and meet the undeniable global demand for high quality British products.”

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