Export innovation vital to secure global trading platform

With a £20bn trade deficit, the opportunity and scope for the UK to improve its global sales of food and drink has never been greater. Yet a reliance on commodity trading will not be enough to turn around these fortunes and therefore organisations need to turn their focus to added value exports.

“The UK needs to prioritise agricultural and food exports,” explains OMSCo’s chairman Nicholas Saphir. “Our counterparts on the continent have remarkable export trade figures and we need to look at their successes and replicate them if we’re to defend farm gate returns post Brexit,” says Nicholas.

This is just one of the reasons OMSCo has taken the lead to sponsor the ‘export in innovation’ Cream Award for the third year running.

“We’re committed to championing UK exports, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship across the industry,” says Nicholas.

He adds that UK food and drink exports sit near £10 billion when whiskey is excluded, which is miles apart from the likes of Holland, which attributes 94 billion euros to food and drink exports.

“To add concern, we know that Brexit will bring about changes in farm support payments post 2024 and many of our farm returns are already below that of our major competitors. We need to widen our markets and the demand for our outputs to be in with a chance of remaining competitive.

“It’s this horizon that’s driving our rationale for the UK to showcase export innovation and is motivating OMSCo to do all we can to encourage a step-change in the approach to agricultural exports,” says Nicholas.

“It’s imperative that organisations don’t just seek to export but also add value through innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Through the development of our antibiotic and GM free organic cheddar cheese, produced specifically for the USA, UHT milk for China and infant formula for Australasia, we know that it’s possible to take a commodity and create added value markets,” says Nicholas.

“Organic, GM free produce has tremendous opportunity throughout the world, especially as the global spotlight on the nutritional value of food continues to intensify.”

But the opportunities are not limited to the organic market adds Nicholas. “We’ve also seen examples of considerable innovation in other food exports, as well as people developing new markets.”

Nicholas says that one of the keys to the cooperative’s successful venture into exports has been the development of long-term supply chain partnerships, such as the relationships built with Organic Valley, the US’s largest organic cooperative, and the recent joint venture announced with Wyke Farms.

“The enthusiasm and support for export innovation is out there. AHDB, Defra and the Department of International Trade are all showing enormous support and I would encourage organisations across the industry to capitalise on the moment and make their move into exports to spread risk and ensure UK farming remains competitive on a global scale” says Nicholas