Global demand for food continues to grow and with the world’s population set to increase by more than a quarter over the next 30 years, there is opportunity to put more Welsh food and drink on the plates of international consumers. Welsh Government data shows that Welsh food and drink exports were worth £641m in 2021 and total UK agri-food exports were valued at £20.2bn.
NFU Cymru has lobbied hard to secure eight new agricultural attachés who will fly out to post in the coming months. The eight new attachés will join the three already in post, covering China, the Gulf, Japan, USA, South America, Thailand, India and many other markets. The role of an agri-food attaché is to broaden market access, break down barriers and drive export growth in priority international markets through in-country engagement. Essentially, these attachés will be the UK’s eyes, ears and voice in overseas markets.
NFU Cymru is keen to ensure that the new attachés are armed with the knowledge and contacts to be able to thrive in their role and promote our agri-food exports. As part of this effort, we recently joined colleagues from the NFU International Trade Team in hosting a ‘walk the dairy supply chain’ exercise as part of their induction programme. UK dairy exports are a success story and we currently export the equivalent of four billion litres of milk a year worth over £1.6bn to over 135 countries around the world.
During the day we visited two dairy farms, one producing milk for cheese making and another producing milk for upmarket barista coffee shops. With the one farm operating a rotary parlour and the other a pedigree Guernsey herd, it was an excellent example of the diversity that exists within our industry and highlighted to the attachés the significant investment farmers make both in on farm infrastructure and genetics.
Over a tour of the factory, we discussed the value of Geographical Indicators, such as Caerphilly Cheese or Welsh lamb, to producers and highlighted the importance of ensuring the province and heritage of these products is protected and promoted.
Progress has also been made elsewhere on exports and following significant lobbying the UK Government has set up the Food and Drink Export Council which met earlier this year for the first time. The aim of the council is to bring together industry experts and governments from Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast to work together to promote exports from all parts of the UK. We believe this is a crucial step towards promoting farmers’ interests overseas as the council can provide strategic oversight and co-ordination to help identify additional measures that will help deliver increased exports.
Across agriculture there is a consensus that securing and maximising access to overseas markets is a crucial component of a farming sector. The export market gives us a way to add value to products, especially those which we may not value or consume here, and complements our efforts on the domestic market.
With demand for climate friendly and high-quality products growing around the world, Welsh farmers are perfectly placed to service these new international consumers. NFU Cymru will continue to work with officials and elected representatives in Cardiff and Westminster to champion our Welsh food and drink products to ensure more of our products reach dinner plates around the world.
National Policy Advisor, NFU Cymru