David Coppock, North East regional head at the Department for International Trade (DIT)
David Coppock, North East regional head at the Department for International Trade (DIT), discusses how local dairy firms can take advantage of opportunities overseas.
Increased international demand for local dairy products is creating a wealth of opportunities for local producers hungry for growth.
According to the latest HMRC statistics for the year ending June 2018, dairy products were one of the North East’s fastest growing food and drink exports – up an impressive 34% on the previous 12 months to £20.4m.
While the Republic of Ireland is currently the largest overseas consumer of the UK’s dairy goods, markets such as China and the US – our two largest outside the EU – are demonstrating a real taste for everything from British yoghurt to cheese.
Although dairy is not traditionally a big part of the Chinese diet, the market has seen significant growth in demand, with UK dairy exports up 9% in the year to June. Changing tastes mean that Chinese consumers are purchasing more and more dairy products such as flavoured yoghurt and yoghurt-based drinks, and predictions show that the market will import more than 19 million tonnes of dairy products a year by 2026, 36% more than it did in 2017.
From my conversations with companies across the North East, I know that many are keen to see how they can make the most of opportunities in markets such as these. This isn’t surprising, as exporting can help local dairy farmers and dairy producers diversify their income and create more sustainable businesses, as well as boosting their profitability.
However, in addition to its many benefits, exporting can also pose certain challenges. To help address these, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) are currently offering support to North East producers through the Food is GREAT campaign, which aims to showcase UK food and drink producers overseas and help more to export.
My role involves leading a team of international trade advisers (ITAs) who are on hand to assist local dairy firms at every stage of the export process.
This includes offering advice on tackling issues such as overseas legislation. For example, producers looking to enter the US market – where UK dairy exports totalled £50.05m in the year to June 2018 - must ensure they are registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can start selling their products to US customers.
Similarly, businesses must ensure that their products and distribution processes comply with all relevant US safety and packaging legislation. This means that labels on products bound for the US must include an indication of product quantity in both metric and US imperial units. They must also comply with local laws that require products to be described factually, without the use of superlatives such as ‘best’ or ‘most’.
We also offer support on other important export considerations, such as shipping and transport. The perishable nature of many dairy products means that producers must ensure that they are able to secure a trusted logistics provider who can reliably transport their goods overseas in a safe and hygienic manner.
Despite hurdles such as these, many North East dairy producers are already taking steps to capitalise on new opportunities overseas.
One example is Acorn Dairy. The family-run business, based outside of Darlington, produces a range of organic milk, cream and butter from its own herds of cows on the Durham and Yorkshire dales.
In mid-November, the firm joined four other North East businesses and businesses from across the Northern Powerhouse on our trade mission to China’s largest food and hospitality trade show – Food & Hotel China in Shanghai – run as part of the Food is GREAT campaign.
There, Acorn Dairy had the opportunity to introduce its goods to Chinese buyers and distributors for the first time.
If companies like Acorn Dairy can find export success, I know that many other North East producers can too.
I’m encouraging anyone interested in seeing how they can find pastures new to get in touch and see how our team can help them start or grow their export activity.
PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards, in association with HSBC and the Department for International Trade, seeks to recognise the most entrepreneurial exporters from across the North of England.
For more info visit www.northernexportawards.co.uk.
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