Exports of South West food and drink increased to £831m the year to September 2018, an increase of 4.3% compared to the previous 12 months, the latest HMRC figures show.
The most popular products from the region overseas were fish, crustaceans and molluscs (3.3% increase to £168.9m).
The statistics also showed that more firms in the region are targeting Singapore, with 78.2% more food and drink exported to the country during the period, when compared to the past 12 months.
There was also a marked increase in appetite for South West produce in China, with local businesses growing exports by 28.5%.
One business that’s seen an uplift in sales first hand is Torbay-based The Blue Sea Food Company. The business started exporting its live Devon-caught crabs three years ago and has seen its exports account for half of its annual turnover. Its revenue from customers in the Chinese market alone increased by 150% between November 2017 and February 2018.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and DIT have been supporting food and drink businesses such as The Blue Sea Food Company in the region as part the Food is GREAT campaign, the UK Government’s cross-department initiative to showcase UK food and drink overseas and to help firms to export.
To help grow its export activity, the business has worked with International Trade Advisers (ITAs), who have helped the business identify potential new partners in key overseas markets, supported their attendance at overseas trade shows, and offered insight into business etiquette in certain Asian markets.
The Blue Sea Food Company isn’t the only business targeting China for its growth ambitions. Taunton-based ice cream manufacturer Granny Gothards has recently invested in new machinery to increase its production capacity as it sets its sights on the Chinese market.
DIT supported the business as it completed due diligence and market research in China before meeting potential overseas buyers.
As part of Defra and DIT’s support, a number of South West based companies have been able to visit overseas markets around the world as part of government trade missions recently, including the Food and Hotel China (FHC) show in Shanghai and Gulfood in Dubai.
Food Minister David Rutley said: “British food and drink is increasingly being recognised the world over for its high-quality and delicious taste.
“These latest figures also underline the growing global popularity of the diverse range of specialist produce from our regions with a rich food heritage.
“I look forward to hearing more success stories as we continue to explore new export opportunities to ensure our incredible produce is on the menu for millions more people worldwide.”
Paul Shand, DIT’s Head of Exports in the South West, said: “The South West has a rich history in food and drink, with many tourists traveling miles to get a taste of our homegrown and handmade produce every year.
“Local producers have found that there’s just as much appetite overseas, from tea and cider, to cheese and chocolate. Exploring new international markets is a great way for businesses to boost their turnover. But while the benefits of exporting are plentiful, it isn’t without its challenges.
“That’s why we have a team of dedicated ITAs based right here in the South West and specialists in more than 100 countries to offer the tailored guidance and support firms might need as they enter new markets. This can include funding to attend trade shows, introductions with potential overseas buyers and one-to-one coaching.”