Farm minister Jim Paice has lauded the achievements of the UK food export industry and told producers that the government is there to help producers expand in difficult markets.
Speaking at the ANUGA food fair in Cologne, Germany, this week Mr Paice told exporters, customers and officials at the AHDB Red Tractor English Food Dinner great steps had been made to make DEFRA more businesses focused and exports were a key part of this.
“One of the first things we did when I and my colleagues were appointed DEFRA ministers about 17 months ago was to make it absolutely clear to officials in DEFRA that it was an economic department,” said Mr Paice.
“We have a responsibility for a massive part of the UK economythis (food and drink) is a sector with £80bn of added value and 3.5m jobs to our employment system.
“But I think we can do even better and I think we can do even better, and breaking into new overseas markets as well as expanding our existing ones is a critical part of achieving that and this is a very strong base on which we can build.”
Mr Paice said food and drink exports in 2010 were worth £16bn and there had been strong growth in the export of beef, lamb and pork during the year.
Exports of British beef alone have grown by 40% in 2011 which Mr Paice attributes to the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) which has opened 30 markets to produce in two years.
Most recently the UKECP has opened the Canadian market to UK lamb, and Welsh producers have already taken advantage of this, undertaking a trade trip, securing initial orders for Welsh lamb to be stocked in major Canadian supermarkets.
In Canada, traditionally Australian lamb is the generic unbranded product while New Zealand lamb occupies the spot of premium brand. Welsh producers believe that the story behind how Welsh lamb is reared, it’s lack of growth hormones, in contrast to US lamb, as well as nutritional benefits will help support the premium image.
Scotland too is looking to capitalise on exports with the cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead visiting businesses at the show and promising government funds to push the development of export trade while Quality Meat Scotland launched a new export strategy focusing on Europe and the wider market.
Chairman of QMS Jim McLaren said following the success of Scotland’s last export strategy they now were looking at expanding further, primarily in the European sector but also further afield.
“Awareness of our product in France, Italy, The Netherlands and Belgium amongst wholesalers and retailers is at the point where we can focus our campaigns from helping develop market opportunities to now build consumer demand.”
New markets which will be approached by Scotland include Scandinavian countries and Germany.
“In is in Scotland’s interest that the Scottish government works closely with the red meat sector to promote export in the years ahead. I recognise ministers are going to have to put their hands in their pockets to some degree to ensure we have a true Scottish approach to getting more meat and lamb onto places in new markets,” said cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead.