Pork exports help Essex farm survive following lockdown

Wicks Manor farm has doubled its export revenue during lockdown to help offset losses in food service sector
Wicks Manor farm has doubled its export revenue during lockdown to help offset losses in food service sector

A surge in pork exports to Asia has helped a family farm survive the Covid-19 crisis after experiencing a sharp drop in sales to pubs and restaurants.

Wicks Manor has doubled its export revenue during the lockdown period to help offset losses in food service sector.

The Essex-based farm faced a sharp drop in sales to pubs and restaurants, which typically account for 45% of its revenue.

But the business's meat produce - namely bacon and sausages - were redirected to Asia and the Middle East during the height of the lockdown.

Wicks Manor sought support from the Department for International Trade (DIT) to help ramp up its exports to supermarkets in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Since April exports have increased by 100 percent, with Wicks Manor supplying products to customers worldwide.

Owner Fergus Howie said international trade had provided the farming business a 'lifeline' during the coronavirus pandemic:

“Our exports would usually account for 20% of sales, however since April we have been able increase them to 40%," he said.

“The importance of diversifying our sales across different markets has been laid bare during this difficult time.

"We are now focused on maintaining export growth while preparing to return to supplying pubs and restaurants," Mr Howie added.

Wicks Manor’s pigs are either born and bred on the farm or sourced from local East Anglian rearers.

They are fed grains grown on site, and the pork is then prepared and packaged at the family butchery, allowing the farm to maintain control over the production of its meat.

The business started exporting in 2010, when it secured a contract with a supermarket in Dubai.

Since then it has expanded to 10 new markets in Asia, Middle East and Europe, where its products are especially popular with British expats.

Due to the recent export growth, the business has been able to maintain nearly a full staff count of 45 employees and avoid food going to waste during the pandemic.

International trade secretary Liz Truss said exporting will play a 'vital role' in the UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus.

"My department is committed to delivering greater export opportunities for UK businesses through new free trade agreements," she said.

“Now, more than ever, we need UK businesses to follow in the footsteps of exporters like Wicks Manor and showcase their produce on the world stage”.

In 2019, exports of British bacon, ham, sausages and related products were worth £107.4 million, an increase of 9.3% compared to 2018.