Trade minister visits Melton producers to discuss export options
Two of the leading food and drink producers in the Melton borough have been visited by international trade secretary, Liz Truss, to learn more about their post-Brexit exporting opportunities.
Her trip took in Bottesford-based Belvoir Farm, which exports its fruit juice to over 44 markets worldwide, and Long Clawson Dairy, a specialist in Stilton cheese production, which sells to the US, Canada, Dubai and Australia as well EU nations.
The dairy, which is a farmer-run cooperative, has benefited in particular from the deal struck with the US on Airbus-Boeing, which will remove additional tariffs of 25 per cent levied on Stilton and from the Australia trade deal, which will end a 10 per cent tariff on blended cheeses.
However, there is concern that many producers across the country have been badly impacted by major changes in the terms of business with EU countries since Britain left - recent research by the Food and Drink Federation shows exports, in particular to Europe, have fallen to a 10-year low.
The government remain bullish over future prospects, though, and they say a future UK-US free trade agreement could significantly reduce or remove tariffs as high as approximately 50 per cent on UK cheese exports.
Mrs Truss, who was accompanied on her visits by Melton MP, Alicia Kearns, is keen to encourage more UK businesses to take advantage of opportunities opening up for high-quality British goods in global markets such as the Asia-Pacific region, with almost two-thirds of the world’s middle classes expected to be in Asia by 2030.
During her visits to the borough, the international trade secretary said: “From the west coast of the US to the far east, there is huge demand for British products overseas.
“We are ensuring food and drink producers, manufacturers and businesses across the UK succeed overseas with initiatives like our Open Doors Campaign and continued support from UK Export Finance.
“The trade deals we are negotiating will create even more opportunities for exporters in the East Midlands and across Britain – boosting rural communities and local economies, levelling up the whole of the UK as we build back better from the pandemic.
“There is a world of opportunity that businesses need to seize and we will continue to help them do just that.”
The family-run Belvoir Farm firm fills 19,000 bottles an hour and produces 25 to 30 million bottles each year, which are sold up and down the country and exported all over the world from the £5million bottling plant
As she toured the premises, Mrs Truss said: “Brilliant to see a quintessential British brand like Belvoir not only contribute to local economic growth but also take their exceptional drinks all over the world including to key markets like the US and Australia.
“New trade agreements will help open markets UK businesses would not have been able to access previously.”
The company is celebrating strong export growth of 20 per cent in the last 12 months and currently exports its range of cordials and sparkling drinks across the world, despite the double challenges of Brexit and Covid 19.
In particular, sales are up in Australia by 102 per cent and the USA by 54 per cent and organic cordial is enjoying strong growth in Europe.
“We were delighted to show the Secretary of State round our unique bottling factory,” said Pev Manners, managing director of Belvoir Farm.
“Our flowers are hand-picked by the local community, to infuse into our delicious elderflower at our modern factory and bottling plant.”
But he is keen for the government to help make exports easier and reduce excessive red tape requirements.
Mr Manners added: “Export is currently around 20 per cent of our business but we are having fantastic interest from markets outside Europe, so we can see it growing to at least a third over the next year.
“France, USA and Australia are currently huge opportunities, particularly as our organic cordial is very popular in France.
“We are certainly bucking the trend - many exporters may have either given up on exporting to the EU, or put it on the back burner given the Brexit complications.
“We were asking the Secretary of State what practical support the government will put in place to help brands like ours diversify risk within our businesses, particular in relation to reducing legislative requirements and also helping us to win new business.”