EU Exit perspectives: Global opportunities for agri-food sector gives food for thought

Friday, 26 February 2021

In this week’s blog, International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley reflects on the launch of the Government’s ‘Open Doors’ food and drink exports campaign, what it will mean for the UK agri-food sector and how a collaborative approach will pay dividends for our producers and processors on the global stage.

Earlier this week at the NFU Live Conference, Secretary of State for International Trade, the Rt Hon Liz Truss, unveiled a new partnership approach to help UK farmers export more high-quality produce to the world’s biggest and fastest growing markets.

The ‘Open Doors’ campaign underlines the importance of collaboration between AHDB, the NFU, FDF, Government and industry in helping our farmers and processors seize new opportunities in fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe, cutting barriers to trade and strengthening market access.

Against a backdrop of a difficult year dominated by the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid-19, the announcement was welcome and timely, dovetailing with our new five-year strategy recognising the great export potential of UK agriculture. We are delighted to be working with DIT, the NFU, FDF and others on a joined up, collaborative approach to promote our farmer and processor stakeholders’ products in a valuable and diverse global marketplace, putting UK food exports on the world’s table.

Export market development has long been one of the cornerstones of AHDB’s work for red meat, dairy, potatoes and cereals. We have a strong track record of working with Government and industry on market access issues, for example, and this will take on a more prominent role as part of our new five-year strategy and change programme I mentioned earlier.

Can we do more? Absolutely, but we have a strong foundation on which we can build for the future. Despite the challenges posed by Brexit, increased domestic demand and Covid-19, exports of red meat for example have remained robust which is a phenomenal achievement under the circumstances. The value of red meat exports in 2020 remained strong at over £1.5 billion.

In an unprecedented year of challenge for exports, 660,000 tonnes of beef, pork and sheep meat was shipped around the world – down just 3,777 tonnes on 2019’s record year, while overall value increased marginally. Shipments of pig meat, including offal, increased by almost six per cent to 400,000 tonnes – worth £654 million compared to £609 million in 2019.

Exports of beef and offal reduced slightly from 184,000 tonnes in 2019 to 166,000 tonnes, worth £453 million to the sector. While sheep meat and offal shipments dropped by seven per cent to 93,600 tonnes, the value rose by nine per cent from £408 million in 2019 to £447 million.

Areas of concern remain around seed potato and pork exports to the EU, which we will continue to help address as Europe remains a critical market. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that 2020 delivered some encouraging and positive results for our red meat exports. 2021 will continue to present challenges given the global conditions, but AHDB will continue to work with government and industry bodies to help boost these figures through new and existing markets, adding value to the industry.

The Secretary of State stressed that the high quality of UK produce makes it highly competitive in the global marketplace and highly appealing to growing middle classes in parts of the world such as Asia.

‘Open Doors’ will provide practical help for farmers and producers, including special exporting masterclasses and a new mentoring programme to give would-be exporters the tools and knowledge they need to start selling their produce internationally and go global. It certainly gives us plenty of food for thought.

Image of staff member Phil Hadley

Phil Hadley

International Market Development Director

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