The focus on the liquid market has left the UK behind its European neighbours when it comes to exports
Years of focusing on the liquid market has seen the UK fall behind its peers on dairy exports, but building these overseas markets would be the key to adding value back to the farmgate.
Speaking at the Department for International Trade’s How to be Export Fit for the Future: Dairy Masterclass, held as part of its Open Doors export programme, NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said the focus on the liquid market meant the price had fallen back when the market collapsed in the ‘hugely competitive’ retail environment.
“It has done harm to adding value in the dairy industry. This is where exports having a huge opportunity,” he said.
AHDB chair Nicholas Saphir agreed the focus on the liquid milk market meant the UK had not pushed exports like its European neighbours and was now generally about 2ppl behind them.
“That is all down to not having alternative markets,” he said, adding other countries’ success, such as Ireland, showed the UK could be successful too.
A Bord Bia style body was under consideration by the UK Government following recommendations from the Trade and Agriculture Committee, with the focus on a more integrated approach, including more advisers on the ground in potential markets.
Mr Saphir said he ‘would love’ a Bord Bia style body and more funding for exports but said the industry ‘must not hide behind’ the view others need to step up to the plate first.
He said in the short-term there were opportunities in markets for products the country already produced such as farmhouse cheeses.
The focus on the domestic market meant processors had little profitability to invest to produce specifically for export markets.
Ray Smith, UK Agriculture, Food and Drink counsellor in China, said there was increasing interest in China from businesses looking to invest in producing their own products in the UK for the Chinese market.
“They are looking to find dairy farmers that want to be invested in,” she said.
There was demand from China particularly for products where New Zealand and Australia could not meet all the demand.
But the quantities required meant there were challenges as UK processors could not fulfil requirements.
“We are looking at working with smaller importers only looking to cover a region,” she added.
She added it was important to know what products would work, with drinking yoghurts or fresh milk being uncompetitive for UK producers but UHT in demand.