Written by Paul Stowers, North West Regional Head at the Department for International Trade (DIT)
The North West dairy industry is experiencing an international boom.
According to HMRC statistics, North West exports of dairy products, along with eggs, jumped by 18% to £238m in 2018.
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.
Dairy is one of the fastest growing areas of food demand in China, and predictions suggest that China will soon surpass the US as the world’s largest dairy market. Many producers across the North West are already benefitting from its thriving demand – in 2018, our region saw dairy and egg exports to China rise by 5.8%.
The North West has more dairy producers than any other UK region, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). As our links with overseas markets continue to develop, we know that many North West producers can leverage the opportunity to diversify their business and secure increased profitability.
But we also know that exporting comes with its challenges.
To help tackle these, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and DIT are currently offering support to North West producers through the Food is GREAT campaign.
I work with a team of expert International Trade Advisers (ITAs) based across the region who are ready to help firms start or grow their trade overseas.
Our ITAs can support businesses of all sizes on a range of issues, including things like legal barriers. For example, producers looking to enter the US market must ensure they are registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). US law also has specific labelling requirements.
Meanwhile, in China, labels must be marked with the country of origin, the name and address of the Chinese distributor, weight, ingredients, date of production and expiry date – all in simplified Chinese.
Our ITAs can also advise on logistics. Producers must ensure that they are able to secure a trusted logistics provider that can transport potentially perishable dairy products in a safe and hygienic manner.
Despite these hurdles, many of the North West’s dairy producers are already capitalising on new opportunities overseas.
Take Delamere Dairy, for example. Founded in 1985 in Knutsford, the firm was the first in the world to export goats’ milk products into China.
Finally, we offer places on trade missions to key markets overseas, and opportunities to meet potential new overseas partners at events here in the UK.
Exporting isn’t just for large businesses – producers of all sizes can benefit. Dairy producers across the North West should consider what exports could do for them.