Tim Render, deputy director for food policy, competitiveness and growth at DEFRA, made the announcement yesterday (April 29) at a seminar in London on ‘Priorities for growth in the UK food and drink industry – skills, exports, innovation and sustainability’, organised by the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum.
Render was responding to a question from FoodManufacture.co.uk following a report we published in January that DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson had approved the establishment of a full-time expert in China to support UK food exporters. It followed calls from representatives of the meat industry for the appointment of a trade expert to support exports to China by overcoming bureaucratic obstacles exporters encountered.
“I am meant to be interviewing someone at 2.00pm today,” said Render. However, he did not elaborate at what stage the interview process was and whether or not this was the first candidate for the post to be interviewed.
Last December, Food Manufacture first reported on the pig industry’s calls for help in increasing exports to China. Speaking at the David Black Awards at the House of Lords, Stewart Houston, chairman of BPEX, the pig producer levy board, repeated the calls from pig meat exporters for a full-time expert to be appointed.
Houston announced that BPEX’s parent body, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, had even offered to co-fund an agriculture specialist in the Beijing embassy over 18 months previously. He lamented “we are no nearer to filling that important post”.
At yesterday’s seminar the challenges facing growth in the UK food and drink industry were described by Food and Drink Federation director general Melanie Leech. Leech outlined various initiatives the industry had launched to drive growth.
UK Export Finance
Also at the event, Peter Croucher, head of trade finance and insurance solutions group at the government’s UK Export Finance department, spoke about the support that was available to both large and small UK food and drink exporters, seeking to sell into difficult markets where funding from traditional private sector sources was difficult to obtain because of the higher risks involved.
Croucher was speaking during a session on ‘Driving food export growth – removing barriers, promoting trade and improving access to emerging markets’. He was joined by David Williamson, government and communications director for the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
While Scotch whisky is by far the most successful UK food and drink export in terms of value, at £4.35bn, Williamson said the sector still needed government support to address the huge tariffs and trade restrictions on Scotch whisky imposed by countries such as India and South Korea. He also remarked how diligent the SWA had to be in defending the sector’s intellectual property against fake products supplied by countries including China and even Australia.