The government has unveiled a plan to export more food to emerging markets in a bid to secure lucrative sales – a move that has been welcomed by the food and drink industry.

The Exports Action Plan, overseen by a Forum co-chaired by Jim Paice, food and farming minister, and Food & Drink Federation (FDF) deputy president and chief executive of Nestlé UK Paul Grimwood, wants to cut through many of the barriers currently faced by potential exporters and help towards the drive for industry growth of 20% by 2020.

Despite a 12% increase in UK food exports in 2010 to £16.1bn, the UK still exports more to Belgium than to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Mexico combined.

The plan identifies a number of actions to boost exports, including removing trade barriers; encouraging and putting in place measures to help SMEs export; shifting the focus to emerging economies and highlighting exporting as the key route to growth.

Melanie Leech, FDF director general, said: “Food and drink is one of the UK’s key growth sectors and our shared ambition with government is to grow the sector by 20% by 2020 across both the domestic market and exports. The core of food and drink manufacturing is SMEs and it can be difficult for these companies to access the help and support they need to take that first step to export. Therefore the opportunity to work in partnership with Defra and UKTI has been embraced by industry.
“This plan contains many common-sense actions that can be taken forward in a relatively short timescale to deliver results as well as those initiatives that are more complex and longer term. We will be reviewing our progress in one year’s time and I hope that the Exports Action Plan will make a significant contribution to yet another year of record exports and to our overall vision for industry growth.”