New 'bounce back' plan aims to boost UK agri-food exports

The recovery package aims to ensure that support is available food and farming businesses looking to export post-Covid-19
The recovery package aims to ensure that support is available food and farming businesses looking to export post-Covid-19

The government has announced a package of measures to boost British food and farming businesses looking to export following the Covid-19 crisis.

The 'bounce back' package aims to 'turbo charge' UK food and drink exporters as dozens of countries begin to recover from the coronavirus.

Physical and virtual events will be part of the plan, including an overseas virtual buyer trial, a ‘Smart Distance Selling Process’ and a package of ‘Ready to Trade’ Exporting Masterclass webinars.

It includes the promotion and showcasing of British produce to new export markets, identifying opportunities and strengthening existing relationships.

Defra and the Department for International Trade (DIT), which are spearheading the package, said the plan would support farmers, manufacturers and agri-tech firms.

The agriculture, food and drink sector is the UK’s largest manufacturing industry, contributing £121bn to the economy in 2018 and supporting around 4m jobs.

In 2019, UK food, feed and drink exports were worth £23.7 billion – up 4.9 percent from 2018.

But the industry has been significantly hit by the coronavirus and its impact on international trade, with agri-food exports significantly down compared to last year.

Looking to boost exports, Defra and DIT will launch a new SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot to increase the level of international e-commerce backing for SMEs in the industry.

The plan will also see the introduction of Defra’s first Agri-food Counsellor serving the Gulf, who will represent the interests of UK food and drink businesses already exporting, or planning to export, to the region.

The government's minister for export, Graham Stuart MP said more trade was 'critical' in helping food and farming businesses recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

“The package 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, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed the plan, adding that it came at an 'uncertain time' for exporters.

"Our success in restarting and expanding exports will be absolutely vital in aiding the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery," Mr Wright said.

"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.”

What are the full range of measures?

• Launch of a GREAT DIT Food & Drink Exporting Masterclass, a programme of webinars to be produced in conjunction with trade associations and UK regions

• Launch of Food & Drink SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot to increase the level of international e-commerce support for food and drink SMEs, including agri-tech.

• Promote 50 Food and Drink Export Champions to stimulate new exporters, while utilising International Trade Advisor specialist networks focused on agri-food.

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

• Launch of a programme of physical and virtual events, using 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.

• Leveraging Defra’s Food is GREAT campaign, which will extend into the UAE and the EU later this year, to provide targeted activity in priority export markets, such as USA, China and Japan.

• Two Virtual Investor Roundtables chaired by Lord Grimstone, minister for investment, with food and farming firms to inform the development of the UK’s investment strategy

• 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.