Friday, 5 March 2021
This week saw the launch of the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) report to the Government on how best to advance the interests of UK farmers, food producers and consumers in future trade agreements. In this week’s blog International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley reflects on the report and the potential implications for our agri-food exports
Export ambitions and policy has been high on the agenda in the last couple of weeks. Following hot on the heels of the launch of the Government’s ‘Open Doors’ food and drink exports campaign, the TAC this week set out ambitious and far-reaching recommendations for the development of a long-term UK agricultural trade policy to help ensure a competitive farming and food sector.
Setting out principles, objectives and a strategy for the development of a UK agri-food trade policy, the report has been produced in response the request from Government. Part of that request was to advise on developing trade policy that identifies and opens up new export opportunities for the UK agricultural industry – in particular for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) – and that benefits the UK economy as a whole.
The Government also sought advice on trade policies it should adopt to secure opportunities for UK farmers, while ensuring the sector remains competitive and that animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined.
Looking at it from an international trade perspective, we welcome the report’s ambitious and far-reaching recommendations for the development of a UK agricultural trade policy to help ensure a competitive farming and food sector that thrives well into the future.
Particularly encouraging is the recommendation to the UK government to put more energy and resource into market access, export promotion and marketing. This is an area in which the AHDB is already heavily involved. We’ve already reaped the rewards of collaborative investment from Government and AHDB in agriculture and food roles and activity in key strategic markets. Continued Government support to strengthen that infrastructure in key target markets will clearly help our long-term export ambitions.
Its recommendation on putting more resource into market access dovetails with the new AHDB change programme and five-year strategy which is committed to unlocking and making the most of export opportunities to grow markets for British produce. As I’ve said previously there are a lot of positives around international market development - the value of red meat exports in 2020 remained strong at over £1.5 billion against a backdrop of Covid-19 and leaving the EU being a stand out – but we can always do more. Additional resource would undoubtedly be welcome to support the UK’s long-term export ambitions.
Ultimately, we can all benefit from a competitive food and farming sector and developing agri-food exports has a key role to play. We will continue working proactively with Government, farmers and processors to promote our industry and build the reputation of its products, both overseas and domestically, to satisfy what we all hope will be a growing appetite for high-quality, sustainable UK produce.