Cameron outlined his food export ambitions at the Royal Welsh Show in Powys, Wales, last month (July), when he announced that he would boost the number of protected foods in the UK from 63 to 200. Prime countries for export as previously identified by the Confederation of British Industry included India, China and Brazil, Cameron said.
The food and drink manufacturing sector was well positioned to help the government in its aim of boosting productivity in the UK and growing exports, Angela Coleshill, director of competitiveness at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said.
“We have continuously outperformed on exports which have almost doubled in value in our sector in the past decade,” she said. “We are ambitious to grow further and welcome the prime minister’s commitment to British food producers. Any additional support to enable small- and medium-sized companies to bring their products to new markets is welcome.”
Food and drink exports had already increased by 45% in the past five years, FDF president and chief executive of Nestlé UK and Ireland Fiona Kendrick told Food Manufacture in April. It was her aim to see them grow further.
“We’re close to £12bn [in food and non-alcoholic drink exports] a year and that’s growing on average by 56% per annum. But we can do more,” Kendrick said. Yet, if the industry was to grow its exports in excess of £19bn it would have to raise its profile, which was “surprisingly low for its size and importance”, she added.
Less red tape
In addition to boosting exports, Cameron wanted to see a new UK-wide Food Innovation Network created to give small- and medium-sized businesses better access to world-leading technology and science to help them innovate and grow. The government also planned to cut red tape and have 20,000 fewer farm inspections under a new single Farm Inspection Task Force, he added.
Under existing rules, seven regulators carried out more than 125,000 farm inspections a year at England’s 250,000 farms.
The plan to simplify inspections was welcomed by National Farmers Union president Meurig Raymond. “At a time when commodity prices have plummeted, delivering reduced administration hurdles must also equate to reduced costs for farm businesses,” he said.
Cameron’s announcement showed farmers that the government was taking the sector’s problems seriously, but more had to be done, added Raymond.