In 2013 the UK government set a target of helping 1000 British food and drink businesses sell their products abroad by October 2015.
But the Farming Minister George Eustice said yesterday that four times as many companies had taken up the offer, generating over one million euros for the British economy.
Speaking at Anuga food and drink fair in Germany, he said: “The companies exhibiting at Anuga today are flying the flag for British produce. Their excellent standards of safety and welfare are world class, and the huge variety of produce they have on offer is second to none.
"I’d like to see even more of our food and drink companies starting to export their great British produce, using the support and advice the Government can offer and making the most of the opportunities created as we negotiate to open new markets.”
A weak euro has meant the cost of exporting to the Eurozone has increased, making UK exports less competitive - but shipping further afield is now cheaper thanks to falling energy costs. According to a report by industry group the Food and Drink Federation, UK exports to the EU fell 5.3% between the H1 2014 and H1 2015 while exports outside the EU rose 1% for the same period.
According to figures from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), dairy exports outside the EU are on the rise, with cheese sales to the US worth £22 m (€29.5 m) in the first half of 2015 – a 20% increase in value compared with last year. The UK government says it has negotiated new markets for UK exports at a rate of three per week over the past five years, such as beef to Thailand, poultry to Angola and processed pork to India.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the body which is on hand to advise businesses on doing business overseas, pointed to UK company Hawkshead Relish, a condiment manufacturers which boosted its global exports to £96.5 m (€72 m), taking on six new employees in the 12 month after meeting with UKTI
. Co-founder Maria Whitehead, said: “[It] was a really good introduction to export, covering a wide spectrum of information. The private meetings with our international trade advisor then helped us to drill down to what was important for us to know country by country. (…) With UKTI, we are recognised as a credible company even if we are newcomers to the market.”
UKTI offers free downloadable country-by-country guides for British companies exporting overseas.