Government launches new mentor scheme to boost UK food exporters

CoOp food tasting at CoOp head office Warwick.

A new mentorship programme to help UK farmers and food producers boost their exports has been launched by the Department for International Trade.

The programme, run in partnership with Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, and the National Farmers Union, will match experienced exporters with businesses who are looking to export for the first time.

There is global demand for British agriculture, food and drink businesses, with the UK exporting £21.7 billion worth of food and drink in 2020. By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s middle classes will be in Asia, creating new export opportunities for British farming.

Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, said: “We are determined to help UK farmers make the most of the new trade deals we’re striking across the world. This new mentor programme matches experienced exporters with our brilliant farmers and food producers to help them open even more doors to the fastest-growing consumer markets.

Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, said: “It’s not enough to open doors for UK farmers and food producers through trade deals – we want to make sure new businesses actually follow in the footsteps of those who are already exporting successfully.

Working with industry, the government’s mentor programme will give farmers and producers the tools and knowledge they need to start selling their produce internationally. The first round of unpaid mentors will focus on diary and red meat, however seafood and packaged/processed food mentoring programmes will follow later in the year.

The scheme is part of The Department for International Trade’s new strategy to boost agriculture exports into new markets, as 97 per cent of the food and drink sector are SMEs but only 1 in 5 of food and drink businesses export.

The latest research estimates that 6.5 million jobs were supported by exports in 2016, and we also know that exporting businesses are typically more productive.