AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir introduces the 2023 exports analysis

This analysis of export opportunities for primary agricultural products forms part of AHDB’s export work, which is funded by the industry and supports the Government’s wider policy objectives of securing vibrant, long-term sustainable markets for British agri-foods.

Specifically, it aligns with the Government’s policy ambition to hit £1 trillion of total UK exports per annum before the 2030s, especially in targeting and supporting SMEs.

Progress with trade agreements

The UK Government’s stated ambition to become a ‘Great Trading Nation’ is progressing, with Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) being negotiated and finalised at a brisk pace. To date, FTAs with Australia and New Zealand have been agreed. FTAs with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), Israel, Mexico, India, Canada, Greenland, Switzerland, Singapore, and the accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) are all in progress.

Trade deals create both opportunities and threats for UK producers of agricultural and food products, and potentially create increased competition in the domestic marketplace. The effect of trade deals such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA have been examined in detail by AHDB in previous Horizon publications.

However, ongoing work on market access, such as reopening the US market for UK lamb and Mexico and Vietnam for pork, in addition to new trade deals, can create new opportunities.

“First, opportunities need to be identified. This AHDB analysis aims to pinpoint where these opportunities exist.”

We can double our exports

In 2021, the UK exported over £20bn of food and drink, of which beef, pork, sheep meat, dairy, and cereals represented 14%. The fact that the UK is not a low-cost producer and is unlikely to become an exporter of bulk commodities any time soon should not hold us back from promoting UK produce across the world. It is not over-ambitious to aim to at least double the current £2.8bn of red meat, pork and other animal protein, including dairy, as well as cereals over the next five years.

The importance of exports to primary producers cannot be underestimated in helping balance supply and demand and maximising value for particular cuts of meat. This helps drive the carcase value higher by maximising returns on every part of the animal, as well as providing an opportunity for specialist dairy and other products.

Burgeoning markets

The ongoing expansion of the middle classes in emerging markets across the globe is shaping the demand for protein and imported foods. Over the next 10 years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has projected that combined global imports of beef, lamb, pork and dairy products will grow by 16%. The UK is well placed to participate in this burgeoning market. Our consumer insight analysis shows the British brand is well-regarded globally and is associated with quality, safety and provenance.

How the UK can best capitalise on these emerging opportunities is the key question. First, opportunities need to be identified. This AHDB analysis aims to pinpoint where these opportunities exist. We must also examine how our major competitors target, manage and develop their key markets.

The UK has lessons to learn from New Zealand, Australia, and the USA, as well as from the Danes and Irish, regarding:

  • how domestic produce can be branded and promoted
  • how trading relationships are developed
  • how to support potential domestic exporters as they explore these new opportunities

Plans to increase the number of ‘agri-food attachés’ in key export markets, who will act as ‘on the ground’ representatives, and establish a Food and Drinks Export Council are steps in the right direction. We ask what more the UK Government can do to help develop these markets and how AHDB can best support both the Government and industry as, post-Brexit, we move towards a less protected and more open trading environment for UK agriculture.

In this analysis, we examine the global opportunities that currently exist or will emerge over the coming decade. We present data and insight into how major exporters have developed and maximised the value of their produce in overseas markets. The work is intended to inform producers and exporters of those opportunities and the challenges that need to be addressed, and inform policymakers and trade negotiators regarding the economic potential in particular markets.

Image of staff member Nicholas Saphir

Nicholas Saphir

AHDB Chair

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