Food manufacturers to drive economic recovery

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Uk food, United arab emirates

Gulfood is one of the Middle East's biggest food and hospitality shows
Gulfood is one of the Middle East's biggest food and hospitality shows
UK food and drink manufacturers will play a key role in contributing to the recovery of the UK economy, said agriculture minister Jim Paice.

Speaking today (February 20) in Dubai at one of Asia’s biggest food and hospitality trade shows, Paice said: “I firmly believe food manufacturing can play a key role in Britain’s economic recovery. That’s why I’m backing British products abroad while ensuring business gets the right support at home.”

Paice highlighted the UK’s opportunity to sell more food and drink to the Middle East. “Successful, vibrant places like the Middle East represent a fantastic opportunity for growth,” he said at​ Gulfood trade fair in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “From cheese to chocolate our foods are already known the world over for their quality.”

High growth markets

The visit was part of a government-backed drive launched last month to boost exports of British food and drink to high growth markets.

About 60 UK firms exhibiting cheese, chocolate, crisps, curry and other British food products attended the event. Firms representing the UK food industry included big business and small- to medium-sized enterprises.

“With world population growth and surging consumer demand for western products in high growth economies, there are significant opportunities for British producers,”​ according to a government statement. “UK food exports grew for the sixth year in a row in 2010, up by 12.2% to £16.1bn. But Britain still exports more to Belgium than to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico put together.”

While visiting the UAE, Paice took part in a food leaders’ summit and held talks with UAE ministers. He met both the UAE’s minister for foreign trade and the minister of environment and water to discuss developing the trade relationships between the UK and the region.

Six Welsh food and drink producers are exhibiting at the event.

A spokeswoman for red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru said that Wales had been exporting lamb to the UAE for five years.

“We will talk to existing and potential customers from across the globe and give them samples of our world-beating products to taste,” ​she said.

Across the globe

Last year, the event attracted more than 62,000 visitors including buyers from retail, airline and public sectors plus restaurateurs, hoteliers, importers and distributors.

In January Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), pledged to ask the Foreign Office for help to promote UK food and drink exports.

“German embassies in emerging countries provide what is known as a bird table for companies to go in to try prospecting for exports,”​ said Spelman. This is particularly useful in developing exports to complex, but high-potential, nations such as China, she added.

“I’ve put this idea to the Foreign Office and I’d like to see it replicated. There’s no question that the Foreign Office would like to help but …​ [we need] … to reduce the barriers.”

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