Blog: Dean BestOutgoing Waitrose chief Mark Price gets UK government role

Dean Best | 10 February 2016

Mark Price, the outgoing managing director of UK grocer Waitrose, has been named the country's new trade minister.

Price announced last autumn he would leave Waitrose in April after nine years at the helm of the upmarket retailer.

He was appointed a non-executive member of the Cabinet Office board within the UK government in November and today (10 February) Number 10 announced the self-styled Chubby Grocer's new role.

From April, Price will be a minister of state jointly at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He replaces Lord Maude, who has decided to resign after over three decades in public life. He became UK trade minister last May and will step down next month, having overseen the "refocusing" of UK Trade and Investment, the country's export promotion arm.

Last month, the Government announced a new strategy for UKTI to concentrate resources on the markets and sectors in which the UK "is or can be a strong competitor".

The new blueprint includes the creation of a new office to help food manufacturers looking to build their presence overseas. UKTI and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, have set up the "Great British Food Unit".

The unit is to be headed by an official from both UKTI and Defra and is an example, the Government said, of the UKTI putting "sector experts" into departments to "better leverage specialist knowledge and existing relationships with business, and join up policy and operational delivery".

Price's remit will reach beyond driving UK food exports - and he will have plenty on his plate with the country's widening overall trade gap - but the appointment could be seen as a further sign of the importance the Government is placing on food as it seeks to improve the competitiveness of British businesses overseas.

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