Government’s export ‘bounce-back’ plan for UK SMEs in the food and drink sectors



The UK government has unveiled a package of support for UK SMEs in the agriculture, food and drink sector to help exporters to “turbo charge” the country’s single biggest manufacturing sector.


The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) are working together on the plan to support farmers, food and drink manufacturers and agri-tech firms in recovering from coronavirus.


The government is offering “immediate support” to firms “from farm to fork” in the food and drink supply chain to grow trade activity overseas, a government statement said this week.


The plan involves exporting masterclass webinars, showcasing UK exports to new markets overseas and the launch of an ‘SME ‘E-commerce Accelerator Pilot’ to boost international e-commerce backing for small and medium-sized firms in the sector.


UK’s largest manufacturer

The agriculture, food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, contributing £121bn to the UK economy in 2018 – supporting around four million jobs.

In 2019, UK food, feed and drink exports were worth £23.7bn – up 4.9% from 2018.

However the government statement acknowledges that the UK agriculture, food and drink industry has been “significantly impacted by coronavirus” and that “exports have been hit”. 

The plan targets SMEs, helping them to capitalise on trade agreements being negotiated by DIT with Japan, US, Australia and New Zealand.


‘Bounce back’ plan

The ‘bounce back’ plan aims to help the sector “get back into international markets and start growing market share once again”.

It includes:

  • A 'GREAT DIT Food & Drink Exporting Masterclass', a programme of webinars tailored to help a variety of businesses and exporters

  • A new UK SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot to increase the level of international e-commerce backing for SMEs in the food and drink industry

  • DEFRA’s first Agri-food Counsellor appointed to serve in the Gulf to represent the interests of UK businesses already exporting, or planning to export, to the region

  • Ensuring the agriculture, food and drink industry benefits from future free trade agreements (FTAs) that the UK is seeking to strike with the US, Japan and Australia and New Zealand.

'Overseas trade critical'

Minister for Export, Graham Stuart MP, DIT said that overseas trade “is absolutely critical to helping the UK’s agriculture, food and drink industry recover from the impact of coronavirus”.

Ian Wright, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation, said:

“The package of measures is testament to the close and long-running work between FDF, DIT and Defra to boost our exports performance. Our success in restarting and expanding exports will be absolutely vital in aiding the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery”.

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