UK - Meat and dairy exports present a huge opportunity for the UK food sector particularly with new markets opening up in countries such as India and China, writes Chris Harris.
Junior agriculture minister George Eustice, speaking at the AHDB Outlook Conference in London this week said that exports offer great opportunities for British agriculture particularly with a growing global population demanding more food.
He said that in the last five years beef exports had doubled with more markets opening up.
However, the shadow of BSE still looms over British beef in some markets and the UK veterinary exports have been working hard to “clear the hurdles and clear the barriers”.
Mr Eustice said he was hopeful on new opportunities for exports into regions such as the Middle East as well as Japan and, for the pork sector, the markets were now emerging outside of the EU in countries such as China.
On the domestic market, Mr Eustice said that consumers are now asking more questions about the origins of the food they eat and supermarkets are taking note of the consumer demand to know where the food comes from.
To this end they are changing their approach and offering more locally sourced foods so that consumers do not have to only visit the farm shop to buy products that are locally produced.
However, he added that food security does not only mean domestic production, but it includes free markets and trade.
With a growing population, the UK is going to have to produce the food itself and cannot rely on imports, he said.
He added that it will mean producing food on less productive land and also producing food more sustainably.
Mr Eustice said that to ensure British farming is supported, he wants to see more government departments sourcing British food.
“If we want people to support the farming industry, it is vitally important to get government departments to buy British food,” he said.
“If we get the procurement right, it could be a big boost to the industry.”
Mr Eustice added that the government is also supporting new agricultural technology and it has pledge £100 million for a new AgriTech fund., which is building centres of excellence for agricultural technology around the UK.