Blog: Dean BestMandelson's call for overseas push is hard to swallow

Dean Best | 17 September 2009

Joined-up government. A much-used (and much-mocked) phrase here in the UK.

And once again today (17 September), we got to see how it can be used to deride government policy.

Addressing the Economist Intelligence Unit's Emerging Markets Summit this morning, UK business secretary Peter Mandelson urged companies to invest more in the world's developing markets in order to ride out the economic downturn.

"The global recession was a wake-up call for companies to diversify their export base and seek out new opportunities in the emerging world. UK business needs to adapt its strategy accordingly to reap long term rewards," Mandelson said.

All very laudable. However, the prospect of such investment by UK food companies has been made more difficult with the winding up of Food From Britain earlier this year - due to the loss of government funding.

A new body, the Food & Drink Exporters Association, has been set up and will work alongside a government body, UK Trade & Investment, and Food From Britain's remaining international offices to help UK food and drink suppliers overseas - but the jury is out on whether this has been an effective replacement to the FFB.

As one of the UK's more buoyant export sectors, food and drink would seem the perfect industry to heed Mandelson's call for more investment in markets like Vietnam and Mexico.

However, with the loss of the once government-backed FFB, the task of cultivating new overseas markets, particularly in the current economic climate, may be a headache too far for the SMEs in our industry.


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