New agri-food attachés to help British products reach new markets

13 May 2024

The attachés group together for a photo in a field on David Exwood's farm

The NFU hosted five new agricultural attachés at an industry roundtable with NFU President Tom Bradshaw and a visit to NFU Deputy President David Exwood's farm. The visits formed part of an induction programme to support the attachés, whose roles are critical in breaking down international trade barriers and promoting the export of British produce overseas.

Following on from the Prime Minister’s commitment to expand the UK’s agri-food attaché network at last year’s Farm to Fork Summit, the NFU has met with five new agricultural attachés who will cover Northern Europe, Southern Europe, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and North Africa.

These new attachés will increase the current network to 16 attachés and, for the first time, see global coverage for the promotion of British agri-food products.

The establishment of the network of agri-food attachés follows extensive NFU lobbying and is part of our ambition to grow UK agri-food exports by 30% to £33 billion by 2030.

Seeing UK standards on farm

NFU Deputy President David Exwood hosted the new attachés, as well as officials from the Department for Business and Trade and Defra’s Export Team, on his farm in Horsham, in West Sussex.

The attachés walked the farm with David and heard about the high environmental, food safety, and animal welfare standards in UK agricultural production. This included visiting David’s Sussex suckler herd and sheep enterprises and learning about how the farm’s livestock are integrated with its arable production.

The day finished with a trip to David’s farm shop where the attachés were able to see the high-quality products produced on farm. 

“We were delighted when the government announced the first group of 11 attachés in November 2021, and again at last year’s Farm to Fork Summit when a further five were announced.

“We are enthusiastic that there are significant opportunities for growing our exports that have potential to add so much value to primary producers.”

NFU President Tom Bradshaw

Commenting on the visit, David explained the importance of helping the attaches to thrive in their role. 

“The agri-food attaches are a key part of our mission to grow our exports,” he said.

“Arming them with knowledge about practices in the UK is so important, so it was great to host them on farm to help give them the tools to truly understand and promote the great story behind British agri-food products.”

What role do agri-food attachés play?

Agri-food attachés are based in UK diplomatic missions around the world and are pivotal in resolving international trade barriers and expanding market access for British products.

They achieve this by developing strong connections with international partners, which allow for important market-based intelligence and regulatory challenges to be communicated to officials in both the Department for Business and Trade as well as Defra’s Export Team in the UK.

Agri-food attachés also play an important role in flying the flag for British agriculture abroad. They support high level engagement and visits from ministers and senior officials as well as identify opportunities to showcase British food and drink.

Increasing the knowledge of, and demand for, British agri-food products in turn helps drive export growth in priority markets around the globe.

Industry roundtable

The following day, NFU President Tom Bradshaw met with the new attachés in London where the NFU hosted a UK agri-food industry roundtable.

The attachés met with representatives from across the UK agri-food industry including the red meat, dairy, arable, horticulture, alcohol, manufactured goods, and sea fish sectors.

Through briefings on each sector and networking sessions, the attachés heard about the challenges that UK producers currently face when trying to export abroad. This information will be critical in enabling the attachés to successfully promote and expand market access for British products in their respective markets.

NFU support for agricultural attachés and the importance of exports

The NFU continues to support the expansion of the agri-food attaché network as a key tool to break down existing trade barriers and support export growth for British agriculture.

Already we have seen the benefits of having dedicated agri-food representatives overseas with the attachés supporting the UK Government in resolving more than 40 issues surrounding the export of British produce in 2023, the estimated value of which was £340 million per year to the economy.

NFU President Tom Bradshaw said: “The NFU has long campaigned for increased resources overseas to bolster the efforts of those in our embassies and missions around the world. We were delighted when the government announced the first group of 11 attachés in November 2021, and again at last year’s Farm to Fork Summit when a further five were announced.

“We are enthusiastic that there are significant opportunities for growing our exports that have potential to add real value to primary producers. In the coming year, global meat consumption is set to grow by 1.8% and fresh dairy consumption by 2.5%, and last year we saw record levels of red meat exports, worth more than £1.7 billion. This included the first beef and sheep meat access to the US in more than 20 years as well as pork to Mexico and Chile, all of which are success stories that we want to grow”.

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