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Business special: A closer look at the global export opportunities for UK farming

Exporting produce around the world can seem daunting. With an increasing emphasis on high-value export markets, Alex Black looks at the global opportunities for UK farming.

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Business special: A look at the global export opportunities for UK farming

British food is in demand around the world but getting a foot in the door of these markets can seem intimidating for smaller food and farming businesses who do not know where to start.

 

Food and drink exports reached £22.6 billion last year, with the industry looking to open up even more export markets.

 

AHDB international market development director Dr Phil Hadley said exports offered a ‘world of opportunity for producers and processors’ in the UK.

 

“And as Brexit draws closer, we are hearing more about the prospects new markets present for British food and farming products,” he said.

 

But he warned it was not without challenges. The number-one lesson he had learned from working to gain market access and increase exports around the world was all about preparation.

 

“The time spent planning, researching, sourcing advice and information about your chosen market and putting together a full business plan, will prove vital to your ongoing success,” Dr Hadley said.


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Daunting

 

He acknowledged taking the plunge could be ‘incredibly daunting’.

 

“But taking that step into the unknown can bring a wealth of opportunities, whether you are a pork producer or a potato farmer,” he said.

 

He added the levy body had been working with processors, growers and the industry to achieve the best results and the AHDB website had information on new market access, networking opportunities at trade shows and exhibitions, and consumer research.

 

Dr Hadley said: “We have so many incredible businesses in the UK which offer high quality pro-duce which will prove valuable in new markets, they just need the knowledge and confidence to carry out this journey and this is an area where AHDB can be of great help.”

 

Welsh meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) market development manager Rhys Llywelyn said: “As we know from past years when an unfavourable exchange rate or other problems have hit red meat exports, there is a direct link between export success and market prices for farmers.

 

Demand

 

“Exports are particularly important for Welsh Lamb. We sell more than a third of our crop abroad and this trade is often in cuts which find less favour in the domestic market.”

 

Welsh produce was in demand in many countries and Mr Llwelyn said HCC had spent many years building a reputation for quality and traceability.

 

“Our largest markets are in Western Europe and Scandinavia, but there are also opportunities in Canada, the Middle East and some parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

 

“Most of Wales’ exports are in cuts and carcases of fresh beef and lamb for retail and foodservice clients. But HCC works with specialist companies too, who may find opportunities in niche markets for value-added products.”

AHDB’S ADVICE ON PLANNING TO EXPORT

 

AHDB offered its advice for farming businesses looking to take the leap into exporting.

 

1. Review your business and its potential for growth

  • Look at whether it has the potential to export
  • Ask whether you have enough product to meet demand and if you can handle the extra workload

 

2. Develop an action plan

  • Pull together a business plan
  • Ensure there is the necessary capital to cover all costs associated with exporting
  • Arrange a meeting with the bank and UK Export Finance
  • Look at packaging and competition. Include as much information as possible in the action plan to cover all eventualities

 

3. Look at countries which fit the remit

  • Research which countries fit the export plan. For example, beef producers need to research countries which consume more beef and lack agricultural land to be self-sufficient
  • Find out which countries import high volumes of product, research your competitors there and see whether the UK has market access and an agreement to export there
  • For livestock products visit ukecp.com

 

4. Research your target country’s market

  • Exporters need to know as much as they can about the country as there is no point exporting to a country which does not eat the product
  • Products which were popular in one country may not enjoy the same success in another
  • AHDB was carrying out consumer insight into individual countries, looking at buying behaviour, eating habits and packaging

 

5. Test the market in your chosen country

  • Visit the destination
  • Visit trade shows. AHDB attends exhibitions and trade shows alongside producers to facilitate meetings and build relationships
  • The UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Trade Access Programme provides grants to companies to attend trade shows and missions

 

6. Understand the challenges to your exports

  • Language barriers mean it is worth investing in a good translator
  • Cultural differences also need to be incorporated into planning.

Failure to take account of differences in culture can lead to damaging and costly mistakes.

 

7. Seek support and advice on progressing

 

■ Gaining advice is key to exporting successfully with many organisations able to offer advice
■ The UKTI, AHDB and Britain’s embassies can all give insights into useful connections, regulations and demand

 

8. Start your venture small and plan to grow

 

■ Do not aim too high
■ It can be tempting to look at multiple markets to export, but it was better to start small and build the export business over time

 

9. Do everything you can to ensure you get paid

 

■ Non-payment is a risk
■ Carry out credit checks on potential clients and guard against non-payment through letters of credit or credit insurance

 

10. Be patient with your growth plans

 

■ It takes time to build a successful overseas business, so be patient and appreciate issues such as customs could slow down the process

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