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Boosting Britain’s Food Exports: What are our prospects and what can we learn from Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway?

Phil Radford, July 2024

The UK food export industry is in an enviable position. The potential for increased exports to the world is great. This is because attitudes are changing fast in parts of the world where our high food and farming standards are valued. This gives the UK a source of valuable competitive advantage in countries where exporters will shortly gain improved access.

This report analyses prospects for food exports, especially Asia and North America. It analyses long-term trends in the UK’s trade in food. It identifies the products in which we have proven competitive advantage. And it shows how four other countries – Australia, New Zealand, Norway and the Netherlands – have expanded successfully in what should be our target markets.

The chapters on New Zealand and Australia both show how consumers in Asia are increasingly buying into foodstuffs that have clear provenance in well-regulated industries. They also show how New Zealand and Australia have successfully pivoted towards strategic markets – and the benefits that follow. These chapters show the value of taking a considered and targeted approach to trade diplomacy.

The chapter on Norway shows how a country with a large fisheries industry can expand quickly outside the EU. Norway’s experience is relevant because the two countries have similar catch species and large-scale aquaculture. Norway also shows how the UK could rapidly reduce dependence on EU seafood markets. This is
critical because continued dependence will constrain the UK’s bargaining position in the 2026 negotiations on fishing quotas.

The chapter on the Netherlands shows how export growth can deliver food security. Recent UK policy stresses the role of domestic suppliers in the UK food supply chain. The Netherlands shows how corporatisation and technology-driven farming can trigger a virtuous cycle of increased investment, greater efficiency and export production. A similar approach could help Britain build resilience into our food supply chain.

Finally, this paper shows the UK is smart to pursue strategic markets outside the EU. Accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) multilateral trade agreement during 2024 will expedite growth in markets that are best suited to rapid export growth – including Japan and countries in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, the UK should continue to promote trade with North America, which is receptive to our high-quality dairy and organic produce.

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