Agri-food attachés – what are they and what do they do?

20 November 2023

A photo of some of the UK Agri-food attachés outside No 10 Downing Street.

Photograph: Defra

The UK's agri-food and drink attachés are the eyes, ears and voice in the nation's diplomatic missions, working to break down barriers to trade and develop networks in target markets. Find out more about their role in tapping into demand for goods from UK farmers and producers worldwide.

The role of an agri-food attaché is to broaden market access, break down barriers and drive export growth in priority export markets through in-country engagement. As well as this, they also:

  • Develop networks to share approaches to challenges, implementation of new regulatory measures and identify best practice.
  • Support UK businesses to establish and grow in market.
  • Support engagement and visits from ministers and senior officials.
  • Mitigate risks to current trade (for example, following public or animal health incidents or ensuring compliance with new import requirements).
  • Monitor and feed back market intelligence, demand trends and future regulatory changes.
  • Provide a key delivery mechanism for Defra’s agri-food and international strategy objectives.
  • Identify opportunities in the market to showcase UK food and drink.

There are currently 11 attachés in post, with plans for a further five to be in place by May 2024.

The current agri-food attachés cover the Americas, China, Japan, Africa and the Gulf states, with the additional attachés set to cover Northern Europe, Southern Europe, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, as well as an additional attaché based in Africa. 

Who do they work with?

The agri-food attachés have a key role in building and maintaining the right operating environment for UK exporter interests in overseas markets.

They work closely with Department for International Trade officials based overseas, including reporting into the government’s Regional Trade Commissioners.

NFU President Minette Batters 2020 Portrait

“I’m delighted this network has increased in recent months and I hope it will continue given the incredibly important work they do.”

NFU President Minette Batters

They also have the support of Defra’s Export Team, based in the UK, and work closely with other UK-based market access and policy teams.

In 2023, the attachés supported the UK Government in resolving more than 40 issues surrounding the import of British produce, with the estimated value of £340 million per year to the economy.

In November 2023, the agri-food attachés will tour the UK and meet with producers across the food supply chain to “deepen their understanding” of the farmers and producers that they represent overseas. During the tour, they also will meet with NFU President Minette Batters for an industry brunch.

NFU support for the agri-food attachés

The NFU has long called for government investment to expand the number of dedicated agri-food representatives overseas and we welcomed the appointment of the expanded network.

We are keen to ensure we arm them with the knowledge and contacts to be able to thrive in their role and promote agri-food exports.

We will work closely with government and the attachés to ensure they have the right support and material to truly understand and promote British agri-food products.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “Agri-food attachés play a vital role in delivering our shared ambition of boosting high-quality, climate-friendly British exports abroad which is why we campaigned to grow their number. I’m delighted this network has increased in recent months and I hope it will continue given the incredibly important work they do.

“I look forward to working directly with the attachés to share the passion and knowledge within our sector, and ultimately help give them the tools to be the best ambassadors possible for great British produce overseas.”

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