Industry welcomes export boost

The industry has welcomed the greater commitment from government to increasing food exports, announced by the Secretary of State at the Oxford Farming Conference last week, as newly released figures show growth in meat exports leading the way.

Figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) have shown overseas demand for meat has helped drive the growth in total UK food and drink exports. In the first nine months of 2011, overall meat exports grew by 20.9% to £1,280m, becoming the number one category in terms of value (up 23.8% to £1bn). This figure was largely driven by the thriving beef industy, where exports were up 33.9%.  

Pork prices were up 18.4% to £125.5m, poultry was up 21.8% to £220.8m and beef was up 35.2% to £321.0m. However, sausages were down 13.1% to £10.1m due to a sharp fall in exports to Germany and Spain.

The export report comes shortly after the Secretary for State, Caroline Spelman, told the Oxford Farming Conference that the government is backing UK farmers to produce more food – and to export it. She told delegates that British embassies abroad will be used to help promote ‘Brand UK’ to further trade and export opportunities.

She said: “Our Exports Action Plan, which will be published later this month, will help companies to export successfully by simplifying the paperwork, and promoting the best of British food and drink overseas.”

Peter Hardwick, international exports manager at Eblex, said: “In reality in non-EU countries, the chief issue is gaining market access. Through this project the government is highlighting the role of British embassies abroad to open up export opportunities.

“The rate at which non-EU exports have increase has been very quick, which is encouraging in itself, but it also indicates that there are big opportunities out there.”

As well as the rapid rise of beef exports, he said that non-EU markets are now the second most important market for pigmeat, after Germany, with the fifth quarter proving strongly in demand. Non-EU markets of pigmeat are up by 73% compared to 2010.  Despite the massive growth and progress in markets, he said that there was still a long way to go, especially with regard to key markets in China, Russia and the USA.

FDF’s director of communications Terry Jones welcomed the increased use of embassies. He said: “We recently joined forces with UKTI and the Food and Drink Exporters Association for a trade show in China that generated several hundred business leads for the companies involved and demonstrated the value of a presence in target destinations to make links with important customers. We feel that involving embassies in this way will be a step forward in helping us to be as successful as competitor nations and meet the undeniable global demand for high-quality British products.

“We have recently unveiled our vision for growing the industry by 20% by 2020. Although our work to underpin the vision demonstrated that much of that growth will come from exports and, importantly, from SMEs exporting, it also told us that we need to work to accelerate that growth and that we face stiff competition from abroad. We are therefore delighted that the Secretary of State has taken this early action, which could contribute to that shared vision for the industry.”

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