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The UK Government has announced a package of measures designed to “turbo charge” the food and drink industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The interventions, which will offer support to help businesses grow their trade activity overseas, were jointly announced by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The bounce back plan will support producers, manufacturers and agri-tech companies across the food supply chain from farm to fork by helping SMEs capitalise on trade agreements being negotiated by DIT with Japan, the US, Australia and New Zealand.
It will also introduce a new programme of physical and virtual events tailored to help a variety of businesses and exporters, including an overseas virtual buyer trial, a ‘Smart Distance Selling Process’ and a package of ‘Ready to Trade’ exporting masterclass webinars. Building upon DIT’s existing E-exporting Programme, a new SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot will also be launched to increase the level of international e-commerce backing for SMEs in the food and drink sector.
Agriculture, food and drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing industry. In 2018, it contributed £121bn to the economy and supported around four million jobs. Food, feed and drink exports in 2019 were worth £23.7bn, up 4.9% from the previous year. But the industry has been hit hard by the global pandemic.
“More trade is absolutely critical to helping the UK’s agriculture, food and drink industry recover from the impact of coronavirus,” says Minister for Export Graham Stuart.
Defra Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Victoria Prentis added: “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.”
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said the support was “extremely welcome at this uncertain time”. “Our success in restarting and expanding exports will be absolutely vital in aiding the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery.” With more support available for businesses looking to export, the industry is well placed to drive an exports-led recovery for the UK.
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