Government launches “bounce back” plan for agri, food and drink sectors

Government exporting plan
The government has announced a set of trade measures for the agriculture, food and drink industry to help support businesses  impacted by coronavirus. It focusses on helping them open up new markets across the world.

The new interventions, jointly announced by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), will offer immediate support to help businesses in the industry grow their trade activity overseas.

The agriculture, food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing industry and plays a vital role in the UK’s food supply chain, which contributed £121 billion to the UK economy in 2018 – supporting around four million jobs. In 2019, UK food, feed and drink exports were worth £23.7 billion – up 4.9 per cent from 2018.

The Kenilworth-based Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)’s International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said: “We welcome announcement by government to launch a new recovery package, which will provide immediate support to those businesses looking to grow their trade activity overseas. Coronavirus has had a big impact on the UK’s export activity and while we continue to ship our produce around the world, the challenges of the pandemic have been strongly felt in all sectors.”

The measures include help in developing exporting and new overseas markets and the launch of a food & drink SME e-commerce Accelerator Pilot.

The new strategy will also promote 50 Food and Drink Export Champions to stimulate aspiring exporters, while using International Trade Advisor specialist networks focused on agri-food.

The government is also appointing the first Defra Agri-food Counsellor serving the UAE and wider Gulf Region, with the role focussing on supporting the UK’s food and drink sector and representing the interests of UK businesses already exporting to the area, as well as those looking to export for the first time.

The new Defra-funded Regional Agri-Food Counsellor will be based in Dubai. She will also support food and drink promotion activity at the UK pavilion at World Expo in 2021.

Other measures in the government’s food and drink sector rescue plan include a programme of physical and virtual events to promote the UK and reach international markets and the leveraging of Defra’s “Food is GREAT” campaign, which will extend into the UAE and the EU later this year.

Minister for Export, Graham Stuart MP, DIT said: “The package of measures we have announced will support ‘bounce back’ in exports, and help our world-class producers and manufacturers increase trade with the rest of the world. It will also get the industry ready to capitalise on the opportunities that are being opened up by the series of free trade agreements that my department is negotiating around the world.

Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation said: “Support on this scale from UK Government is extremely welcome at this uncertain time. The package of measures is testament to the close and long-running work between FDF, DIT and Defra to boost our exports performance. Our success in restarting and expanding exports will be absolutely vital in aiding the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery.”

UK food and drink exports more than £23 billion of quality products each year. The ‘bounce back’ plan will ensure that specialist support is available to those UK businesses which trade around the world and provides fantastic potential for those companies looking to export. With a footprint in every constituency, food and drink is uniquely placed to drive an exports-led recovery. In the longer term, it is important that government and industry continue to work together to take advantage of export opportunities and address fragmentation in available support across the UK.

The package of measure in full:

  1. Launch of a GREAT DIT Food & Drink Exporting Masterclass, an extensive and bespoke programme of webinars to be produced in conjunction with trade associations, UK regions, including Devolved Administrations, and DIT’s international network, all supported by DIT’s Export Specialists.
  2. Launch of Food & Drink SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot to leverage DIT’s E-exporting Programme to increase the level of international e-commerce support for food and drink SMEs, including agri-tech. This will include the offer of one-to-one e-commerce export clinics with the programme’s e-commerce specialists and regional advisers, a new series of industry webinars and podcasts focussed on highlighting the opportunities available to export through e-marketplaces internationally, as well as virtual workshops on internationalising their websites for those companies selling direct to consumers in various markets around the world.
  3. Promote 50 Food and Drink Export Champions to stimulate aspiring exporters, while utilising International Trade Advisor specialist networks focused on agri-food.
  4. Announce the first Defra Agri-food Counsellor serving the UAE and wider Gulf Region, with the role focussing on supporting our food and drink sector and representing the interests of UK businesses already exporting to the area, as well as those looking to export for the first time. The new Defra-funded Regional Agri-Food Counsellor will be based in Dubai and will work alongside DIT’s existing sector leads in the UAE, providing specialist knowledge and engagement in Government to Government discussions on behalf of UK interests and sectors. She will also support food and drink promotion activity at the UK pavilion at World Expo in 2021, identifying opportunities for new markets and further developing existing export relationships.
  5. Launch of a programme of physical and virtual events, using innovative, interactive software to connect buyers, promote the UK and reach international markets. This will include: an overseas virtual buyer trial working directly with chosen US buyers through a virtual delivery programme; and developing a UK ‘Smart Distance Selling Process’, which includes the dispatch of food and drink samples to buyers.
  6. Leveraging Defra’s Food is GREAT campaign, which will extend into the UAE and the EU later this year, to provide impactful and targeted activity in priority export markets, such as USA, China and Japan. This also will be complemented by new agri-food creative imagery within DIT’s GREAT Ready to Trade campaign when this resumes in the summer, under the Food is GREAT and Invest in GREAT pillars.
  7. Two Virtual Investor Roundtables chaired by Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment, with agri-food and drink, and agri-tech companies to inform the development of the UK’s investment strategy, the UK Agri-Tech International Strategy and the launch of Phase 2 of the High Potential Opportunity Programme.
  8. Uplift of UK Export Finance’s “Exporters’ Edge” campaign to further outreach and engagement to identify and respond to the needs of the industry and raise awareness of how UKEF and Trade Finance can help the businesses win and fulfil export contracts. UKEF is also accelerating the development of its products to allow a wider range of UK exporters to access its support. Its enhanced offer will provide easier access to working capital for UK exporters by offering financing that is not tied to specific export contracts but instead supports general business activities.