The UK government has set out a 'bounce back' plan of trade measures for the agriculture, food and drink industry to help support businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.
The new strategic interventions, jointly announced by the UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Monday, will offer immediate support to help businesses in the industry grow their trade activity overseas.
It is designed to provide unprecedented help for UK companies to capitalise on post-Brexit trade agreements being negotiated by DIT with Japan, the US, Australia and New Zealand.
More trade is absolutely critical to helping the UK's agriculture, food and drink industry recover from the impact of coronavirus, said Graham Stuart, UK Minister for Export.
The package of measures we have announced today will support 'bounce back' in exports, and help our world-class producers and manufacturers increase trade with the rest of the world. It will also get the industry ready to capitalise on the opportunities that are being opened up by the series of free trade agreements that my department is negotiating around the world, he said.
The package includes a new programme of physical and virtual events tailored to help a variety of businesses and exporters. These include an overseas virtual buyer trial, a 'Smart Distance Selling Process', and a package of 'Ready to Trade' Exporting Masterclass webinars.
The DIT said that leveraging its existing E-exporting Programme, the department will also launch a new small and medium enterprise (SME) E-commerce Accelerator Pilot to increase the level of international e-commerce backing for SMEs in the food and drink industry.
The plan will also see the introduction of Defra's first Agri-food Counsellor serving the Gulf. In this new role, they will support the UK's food and drink industry and represent the interests of UK businesses already exporting, or planning to export, to the region.
Around 50 Food and Drink Export Champions will be promoted to stimulate aspiring exporters, while utilising International Trade Advisor specialist networks focused on agri-food.
This package of measures signifies our strong commitment to support the sector in recovering from the impact of coronavirus. It includes the promotion and showcasing of British expertise and produce to new export markets, identifying opportunities and strengthening existing relationships, said Victoria Prentis, Defra's Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.
"Our new Agri food counsellor serving the Gulf region will be an important new role representing the interests of UK businesses exporting to the area, working to open new export markets and supporting food and drink promotion activities within the region," she said.
According to official UK government data, the agriculture, food and drink industry is the UK's largest manufacturing industry and plays a vital role in the UK's food supply chain, which contributed 121 billion pounds to the UK economy in 2018 supporting around 4 million jobs.
In 2019, UK food, feed and drink exports were worth 23.7 billion pounds up 4.9 per cent from 2018.
Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation said: UK food and drink is an international success story, exporting more than 23 billion pounds of quality products each year.
The 'bounce back' plan will ensure that specialist support is available to those UK businesses which trade around the world and provides fantastic potential for those companies looking to export.
Over the last two months, the DIT has launched the first round of talks for the US, Japan and Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement negotiations. In 2019, the UK exported 2.4 billion pounds of food and drink to the US, 312 million pounds to Japan, 453 million pounds to Australia and 58 million pounds to New Zealand.