The UK has launched a new ‘bounce back’ plan for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the food and beverage industry, which aims to boost exports and support businesses impacted by Covid-19.

Several new measures have been announced by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which the UK Government claims will offer “unprecedented help” to SMEs in the industry, allowing them to grow their trade activity overseas.

The measures have been developed in conjunction with businesses, industry associations and the devolved administrations, and aim to help SMEs capitalise on trade agreements being negotiated by DIT with Japan, US, Australia and New Zealand.

The measures include the introduction of virtual events, including an overseas virtual buyer trial, a ‘Smart Distance Selling Process’; and a package of ‘Ready to Trade’ Exporting Masterclass webinars.

An SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot will also be introduced to increase the level of international e-commerce backing for SMEs in the food and drink industry.

The plan will also see the introduction of Defra’s first Agri-food Counsellor in the Gulf region. In this new role, they will support the UK’s food and drink industry and represent the interests of UK businesses already exporting, or planning to export, to the region.

The UK Government’s Minister for Export, Graham Stuart, DIT said: “More trade is absolutely critical to helping the UK’s agriculture, food and drink industry recover from the impact of coronavirus.

The package of measures we have announced today will support ‘bounce back’ in exports, and help our world-class producers and manufacturers increase trade with the rest of the world. It will also get the industry ready to capitalise on the opportunities that are being opened up by the series of free trade.”

Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the FDF added: “Support on this scale from UK Government is extremely welcome at this uncertain time.

“The package of measures is testament to the close and long-running work between FDF, DIT and Defra to boost our exports performance. Our success in restarting and expanding exports will be absolutely vital in aiding the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery.”