HCC19117 - Promotion Work Pays Off as Welsh Lamb Sees Jump in Middle East Exports 2

Source: Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales 

British food and drink exports to GCC countries were worth £625m last year, according to the Department for International Trade

The government is to open free trade agreement talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council, in a move it has claimed could bring “significant benefits for British farmers and producers”, if successful.

Visiting Saudi Arabia, a key market for the UK arms industry, trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan this week said the prospective deal had “the potential to support jobs from Dover to Doha, growing our economy at home, building vital green industries and supplying innovative services to the Gulf”.

The FTA, if agreed, should “further strengthen bilateral economic relations and our strategic partnership”, Trevelyan added.

Negotiations will kick off later this summer, according to a joint UK-GCC statement, and will follow the start earlier this year of FTA talks between the UK and India and the more recent announcements by the UK government of similar discussions involving Mexico and Canada. FTAs were agreed last year with Australia and New Zealand, though these have been questioned by British farmers, who said they could see the UK flooded with agricultural imports.

Taken together, oil-rich Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates add up to what would be the UK’s seventh-biggest export market. Any deal could be worth £1.6bn to the UK economy, the government said, in part as the region is “highly dependent on imported food”.

The six GCC states are among the world’s wealthiest, meaning, according to the UK government, the region is already a lucrative market for UK exporters. “Consumers in the Gulf have significant purchasing power and huge appetite for UK products and services,” the Department for International Trade said.

The Food and Drink Federation’s international trade head Dominic Goudie said the industry body welcomed the UK-GCC FTA talks, which he said  ”presents substantial growth opportunities for our industry”.

”The UK’s strength in quality branded production and new product development means there are strong untapped export opportunities, particularly for value-added food and drink”, Goudie added.

British food and drink exports to GCC countries were worth £625m last year, the department said, with the potential for more as a trade deal “could significantly reduce or remove tariffs on UK food and drink exports”, listing the potential for duties to be slashed on the region’s imports of British cereals, chocolate, biscuits and smoked salmon.

Gulf nations rely heavily on both agriculture export powerhouses Ukraine and Russia for cereals and grains such as wheat, of which the UK is a mid-sized producer and exporter.

While Russia is set to retain its spot as the world’s biggest wheat exporter this year, according to US government projections, Ukraine has struggled to export its vast stockpiles of wheat due to the Russian invasion and blockade of Black Sea ports such as Odesa, which Ukraine has also mined.

Ukraine’s harvest is set to be down by 20%-30% this year due to the war, with swathes of farmland occupied by invading soldiers and with Ukrainian farmers fighting in their country’s military.