UK government backs food and drink exports

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags International trade Meat Uk

UK government backs food and drink exports
The UK government is stepping up activity on the food and drink export market in a bid to boost the country’s flagging economy.

A Farming, Food and Drink Exports Action Plan has been launched by Agriculture Minister Jim Paice today, and aims to target high growth markets, such as India and China.

The plan sets out how government, in partnership with industry, aims to work together to encourage and support food companies to succeed on the export market. It will also see the launch of an overseas campaign to champion British food abroad.

Launching the report, Paice said: “British food is already known the world over for its quality and, with surging world population growth and demand for western products, there are huge opportunities for our producers to tap into emerging markets. I’m convinced the sector can become an engine for growth for our economic recovery. It’s crucial we get the right support to business at home as well as championing British products abroad.”

Tom Taylor, chief executive of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, said: “Driving exports has been something the industry has placed great emphasis on for some time, so we welcome this positive response and the government’s commitment to addressing the issue at the highest level. It is vital in terms of improving our international competitiveness and bodes well for the future of British agriculture.

“We have strong evidence already that the profitability and sustainability of the beef, sheep and pig sectors has been positively affected by the increase in exports over the past two or three years. Faced with the challenges of less support through the CAP in the future, UK agriculture needs all the tools in the box to secure its competitiveness. Where export markets offer potentially better returns for products that have low demand in the UK, we should be taking full advantage of them.”

The government plan includes holding regional roadshows and networking events to encourage export from companies within the UK, actively working to get other countries to remove bans on British meat and using ministers and a new international business ambassador to provide high-level support to promote British produce abroad.

The move has been welcomed by the UK meat industry: “This added focus at the highest level will be a great boost for our ongoing market access work. It is vital that we continue to push to open up new overseas markets for domestically-produced beef and lamb to ensure we are getting the best returns for both producers and processors,”​ said James Wilde, communications manager with beef and lamb sector body Eblex.

“Matching specific cuts to specific markets aids carcase utilisation and supply chain efficiency. We can only do this effectively if we can get into the markets where the demand is. Since August 2010, Eblex has helped open more than 35 new non-EU export markets. This has helped exports significantly and we are again a significant player in global beef and lamb trading. In the 11 months to November 2011, beef and veal exports were 32% higher year-on-year at 132,000 tonnes, and sheep meat was up 11%.

“However, there are still many more doors to knock on and having the full support of the Export Action Plan may open some of them faster than might be achieved otherwise.”

Liz Murphy, director of the International Meat Trades Association (IMTA), added: "The plan is very timely as there are great opportunities for UK meat exports in the face of growing global demand. We also welcome the Prime Minister’s comments in Davos this week that trade agreements and deregulation at an EU level are the actions needed to move Europe out of the economic crisis. However, for the UK meat industry to take full advantage of these opportunities the government must take care that sufficient public funds are protected to ensure an up to date and effective veterinary export certification system."

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