Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Underlining food and drink’s role in economic growth

Reports have highlighted that a focus on increasing exports can play a major role in helping the food and farming industries drive economic growth.

They came after Defra published details of how to make the food and farming industry more competitive, while protecting the environment. Citing that the sector is responsible for 3.5 million jobs and seven per cent of the UK’s overall economy, it made for encouraging reading.

Looking at specific areas in a little more detail, it was also encouraging to see that those identified are already high on the EBLEX agenda, not least boosting exports and undertaking work to mitigate the sector’s environmental impact.

Work to open more markets and remove trade barriers, promote the industry at overseas events, encourage more companies to export and support those who already do so are prominent areas raised by Defra and UKTI. While this is something we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, it’s worth reiterating that EBLEX has helped and continues to open new EU and non-EU markets for UK beef and lamb.

Our presence at overseas events – recently Gulfood in Dubai, CRFA in Canada and Salón de Gourmets in Madrid – play a crucial role in ensuring Quality Standard Beef and Lamb are seen and tasted on the world stage. These efforts will continue imminently at HOFEX, the largest trade and hospitality show in Asia, being staged next month in Hong Kong.

High on the political agenda is also the need to increase food production while improving the environment, as is promoting environmentally friendly ways of managing the landscape while increasing production. Again, these are areas where EBLEX has made great strides with its three environmental roadmaps, Change in the Air, Testing the Water and Down to Earth examining the beef and sheep sector’s impact on the environment. Similarly, the Landscapes without Livestock report examines what could happen in specific landscapes if they were no longer managed by livestock grazing them.

Providing better information and advice to farmers at the grassroots has also been cited as an area of importance to focus on and one where EBLEX’s Better Returns Programme fits the bill – encouraging English beef and sheep producers to evaluate their businesses to identify where improvements can be made in terms of cost reduction, environmental impact and animal performance.

After what has been and continues to be an immensely challenging period for producers, it’s encouraging to see a shared vision between industry and the policymakers that will hopefully pay long term dividends.