New plans to boost agri-food exports amid fall in trade

By Chris Wright, Partner and ARA specialist

Farmers are experiencing a significant decline in trade with the EU, which is why the Government is launching a new exports initiative to help boost agri-food exports from the UK.

The effects of Brexit are being felt in many different ways, from a shortage of workers to problems with logistics. However, one of the biggest challenges facing many farmers is a drop in demand for UK goods in the EU.

To combat this, Defra has announced a new initiative that is designed to assist farmers as they seek out new markets by appointing more dedicated ‘agri-food attaches’ to act as representatives on the ground.

Alongside these attaches, the Government will launch a new Food and Drink Exports Council to champion British food around the world, as part of the nation’s food and drink exports strategy.

Contributing more than £20 billion in exports each year to the UK economy, the agri-food sector is vital to the nation’s recovery. Nevertheless, Defra has said that only 20 per cent of farmers and agri-food businesses currently sell their products overseas.

Due to Brexit and the pandemic, overall exports of UK food and drink to the EU are down £2 billion, with exports to almost all of the EU’s remaining 27 member states dropping significantly.

Sales of UK food and drink outside the EU are increasing – up 13 per cent in the last year – but they still account for less than half of UK food exports in 2021.

The Government hopes its recent trade deals will lead to a greater number of exports outside the EU, but the continent remains a significant trade partner.

Unveiling the new exports initiative, Defra Secretary George Eustice said: “The support will enable our farmers and producers to take advantage of new opportunities and fly the flag for UK produce around the world.”

Despite attempts to break into new markets, the Government has continued to face criticism from the industry with the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) saying that the growth of non-EU exports could not make up for the ‘disastrous’ loss of European exports in the last year.

Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at FDF said: “The loss of £2bn of exports to the EU is a disaster for our industry, and is a very clear indication of the scale of losses that UK manufacturers face in the longer term due to new trade barriers with the EU.”