It was essential to create a future trading environment that both protected current trade routes and opened up new ones, Rosa Wilkinson, director for trade policy business engagement at the DIT said.
However, it was up to government departments to “communicate the opportunities effectively” to food and drink manufacturers, she acknowledged. This would then have to be backed up with trade export support and promotion work, she added.
Wilkinson was speaking at a panel debate on securing the best possible outcome from Brexit, part of the annual Food and Drink Federation Convention, held in London last month. The debate was chaired by Food Manufacture group editor Mike Stones.
Wilkinson called on food and drink manufacturers to tell government what their export priorities were, and what regulatory changes they would like to see.
“I also advise you to explore and test new markets – and use the fact that the pound is down in the doldrums – to strike deals and build the relationships that will carry you through when it recovers,” she added.
Sian Edmunds, partner at law firm Burges Salmon, used the debate to suggest the “siloed” approach to food regulation in the UK was having a negative impact on the industry’s ability to trade overseas.
“I’d like to be optimistic about Brexit, but there’s a long way to go. And it’s not just the numerous government departments, it’s also the way the sector is regulated, assessed and monitored,” she said.
One coherent strategy
“The sector as a whole is so siloed, that none of it works well when what we are trying to achieve is one coherent strategy.”
Wilkinson conceded that “old habits die hard”, but claimed that communication between government departments was better than she had known in her 30 years as a civil servant.
“The relationships across government are growing. If we try and put all of those functions into one place and create some sort of behemoth structure, we would still have problems communicating within that structure,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Food Manufacture Group has teamed up with sister William Reed manufacturing titles British Baker and Meat Trades Journal to stage a one-day conference dedicated boosting food and drink exports at Ardencote Manor on Thursday October 5. Read more details in the box below.
Food Xport conference
The Food Xport Conference on Thursday October 5 at Ardencote Manor, Warwickshire, will arm delegates with latest advice needed to unlock the potential of global export markets.
The day comprises four sessions that will cover: Identifying your potential for growth, How to organise your UK business to drive exports, World Trade Organisation Rules and What can be learned from food and drink manufacturers trading profitably overseas. Confirmed speakers include: Adam Buckley, international sales director, Premier Foods, Ed Wright, export director, Cranswick and Richard Clothier, md Wyke Farms. Book your place here.