Press release

British food exports will be engine for growth

The Farming, Food and Drink Exports Action Plan sets out how we could work together with industry to open up key markets.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A Government-backed drive to boost exports of British food and drink to high growth markets like India and China will be an engine for economic growth, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said today.

With rapid world population growth and booming consumer demand for Western products in high growth economies, there are significant opportunities for British producers to increase profits.

UK food and drink exports grew by 12 per cent in 2010 to £16.1billion, but the UK still exports more food to Belgium than to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico put together.

The Farming, Food and Drink Exports Action Plan, published today, sets out how Government and industry will work together to open up and take advantage of key markets.

It includes plans for a domestic drive to encourage and support manufacturers to succeed overseas, as well as an overseas campaign to champion British food abroad.

Launching the action plan, Mr Paice said:

“British food is already known the world over for its quality, and with surging world population growth and demand for western products, there are huge opportunities for our producers to tap into emerging markets.

“I’m convinced the sector can become an engine for growth for our economic recovery. It’s crucial we get the right support to business at home as well as championing British products abroad.”

The exports plan was developed by Defra, UK Trade and Investment, industry trade associations, and top exporting companies. A forum was co-chaired by Mr Paice and Paul Grimwood, CEO and Chairman of Nestle UK and Ireland.

Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green said:

“This is the year of the Olympics - a once in a generation opportunity to showcase what makes Britain Great. The quality of our food and drink is famous around the world and we want to see many more SMEs exporting to high growth markets.

“Food and drink exports are already worth over £16bn a year. But, we can do much, much more. By working together, Government and industry can help British food producers unlock their potential and take on the world.”

Mr Grimwood said:

"”The UK food and drink industry has an ambitious vision to grow 20% by 2020.  The industry’s exports have grown in each of the last six years, and the Exports Action Plan will drive further export growth in the future.

“Thousands of UK food companies, large and small, can grow their business by exploring export opportunities.  The Government-backed Export Plan will champion open markets and the removal of trade barriers, and provide SMEs with the support and confidence they need to sell the best of British food and drink around the world.”

The project steering group which developed the action plan along with the export forum included Defra, UKTI, Food and Drink Federation, Food and Drink Exports Association, Scotch Whisky Association, and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

The Exports Action Plan includes plans to:

  • Hold regional road shows and business-to-business networking events to share best practice and encourage companies to export;**
  • Make it far easier for companies to access the range of advice and support already available;**
  • Make food export paperwork simpler and easier to access;
  • Better advertise the financial safeguards available to protect smaller companies from not being paid, which is a key concern;**
  • Work across government and industry to get other countries to remove bans on British meat, such as beef and lamb to China.**
  • Support inexperienced agri-food companies to showcase products at international tradeshows and trade missions;
  • Ministers and a new international business ambassador to provide high-level support and promote the best of British produce abroad;
  • Showcase British food and drink at the London Olympics 2012 to attract international buyers.

Key facts:

  • Food and farming is worth £85 billion to the UK economy national, employing 3.5 million people;
  • UK food exports grew for the sixth year in a row to 12.2 per cent in 2010 to £16.1bn;
  • However, the UK still imports more food than it exports - with a trade gap of £18.5 billion in 2009;
  • The UK exported more to Belgium than Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico, which make up 44 per cent of the world’s population (£422m in 2010);
  • World population recently passed 7 billion and is predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050;
  • China, India, Russia and Brazil are all expected to be in the top five retail grocery markets by 2015, accounting for almost €2.2bn;
  • The UK exports most to the Republic of Ireland (£2,692m), France (£1,925m), USA (£1,239m), Germany (£1,032m) and Spain (£963m);
  • Top British exports include whisky (£3,514m), beer (£536m), chocolate (£376m), breakfast cereals (£367m) and soft drinks (£327m);
  • Despite China’s economy growing by 10.3 per cent in 2010 and importing far more food, the UK’s share declined to less than 1%;
  • The UK has targeted a doubling of trade in all sectors to India and China by 2015;
  • The food and drink sector is innovative, introducing more than 6,000 new products introduced a year.


The Exports Action Plan is available at

Updates to this page

Published 27 January 2012