Blog: Dean BestUK sets out latest attempt to boost exports

Dean Best | 20 January 2016

UK pinning hopes on cross-government approach

UK pinning hopes on cross-government approach

The UK government has outlined changes to the way it aims to support the country's exporters - including the creation of a new office to help food manufacturers looking to build their presence overseas.

As part of what the Conservatives have called "a whole-of-government approach" to boost exports, UK Trade & Investment, the country's main trade promotion agency, 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".

Trade minister Lord Maude admitted the Government had to change the way it sought to drive the UK's exports. "To move the needle on exports and meet our commitments we need to do things differently," he said. "We will co-ordinate the energies of the whole of government on boosting exports, sharing responsibility across departments, harnessing their deep sector knowledge, focusing on priority targets, and monitoring progress closely. UKTI will be at the heart of this work, as well as retaining its remit to attract and support investment to the UK, but we are bringing together all of government to play a role."

The strategy will see the UKTI concentrate resources on the markets and sectors in which the UK "is or can be a strong competitor", the Government's statement continued.

So, potentially good news for the food sector, although manufacturers will be keen to hear where geographically the UKTI plans to put more of its resources.

Those working among the UK's food exporters gave the news a cautious welcome. "Aligning trade activity with policy, free trade negotiations and market access issues is a positive step. The challenge is now coming up with a programme of activity that delivers what is needed to help build business for existing exporters and to encourage new companies to start exporting. We look forward to working with the team to deliver on key export services," Sandra Sullivan, of the UK's Food and Drink Export Association, told just-food.

Wyke Farms, the UK cheese maker, is a business enjoying rising sales outside its domestic market and it hopes to quadruple the size of its international business over the next four years.

MD Richard Clothier said the Government's new strategy "looks really encouraging" and added: "It looks a little like the model adopted by some other countries that has proved very effective. It will provide more clarity as it is all in one place under one department now. I’m really quite excited about seeing the details."

Tomorrow, Liz Truss, the Environment Secretary, is expected to formally the launch the new unit at an event in the UK. We'll be sure to hear more about the Government's new strategy to help food exports in the coming hours.

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