Defra Secretary Liz Truss has launched a new Great British Food Unit with the aim of helping the UK food industry increase food exports by £6 billion.
The new unit will bring together experts in exports and investment from Defra and across Government with the aim of helping more businesses find new global outlets for their produce.
It will support industry targets to further boost exports, potentially generating an additional 5,000 jobs in food and drink manufacturing. The long term ambition of the new unit is to match France and Germany, which both currently export more than double the UK in terms of the value of food and drink.
Another of its aims will be encouraging more Foreign Driven Investment in UK companies, which stood at a record £60 billion in 2014 – nearly a third of all FDI assets in UK manufacturing.
Mrs Truss the unit at the Weetabix factory, which marked the event by pledging to source all its wheat from local farmers, a move Defra said would help guarantee the quality of their wholegrain wheat, support the rural economy and protect the environment.
The UK breakfast cereal giant Weetabix has benefited Chinese investment. In 2012, Bright Food, China’s second largest food manufacturing company, bought 60 per cent of Weetabix for £1.2 billion due to growing consumer markets in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing.
The cereal is now reaching breakfast tables in 80 countries worldwide, including Africa, Germany, Spain and North America, with the Bright Food deal set to open markets in East and Western Africa.
These deals create and secure more jobs for UK workers and Mrs Truss said Weetabix’s success was ’exemplary of what hundreds of thousands of UK food and drink companies can achieve through the new Great British Food Unit’.
Over the next five years the Great British Food Unit will focus on:
Companies seeking to be involved in the Great British Food Unit will be offered practical support to help them innovate and identify new markets for export.
They will be championed by international UKTI teams and British Embassies who will work to promote British food and drink abroad.
The Great British Food Unit will also work to further promote our 64 unique British foods which achieved the prestigious European protected status, including Rutland Bitter, Cornish Pasties and Swaledale Cheese.
Launching the unit at the Weetabix factory, Mrs Truss said: “We produce more new food products each year than France and Germany combined.
"My long term aspiration is for the UK to match both these countries in terms of the value of exports so our food and drink becomes a worldwide phenomenon.
“From Weetabix to Yeo Valley yoghurt, I want to see more of the Great British breakfast enjoyed around the world. Through the creation of the new Great British Food Unit companies large and small will now find it easier to export overseas and receive foreign investment."
The launch of the new unit comes as the Government announced 2016 as the Year of Great British Food.
Ian Wright CBE, Director General of the Food and Drink Federation, said the new unit could be a ’real game changer for UK food and drink exports’.
"Helping this country’s 6,000+ producers, many of them small enterprises, to compete in the fiercely competitive global marketplace will help us meet our ambitious target to grow value added exports by a third to £6bn by 2020."
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “With 2016 being designated the year of British food, I am encouraged by the Government’s move in establishing a unit which will help promote and celebrate great British food.
"Anything which can showcase British farming and farmers, not just for they food they produce, but for the value the British farming industry adds to the economy, employment and our beautiful and diverse countryside is a step in the right direction.
“What I want to see now is more export markets being made available to British farmers to sell to countries such as China, Japan, the USA and Saudi Arabia.
"Over the past 18 months, all sectors, particularly livestock and dairy have been under financial pressure from low prices. That’s why we need to create more opportunities to get more great British products into new global markets."