Food and drink trade associations met for a roundtable with the secretary of state and minister George Eustice at DEFRA HQ in London last week. It was the first in a series of meetings to bring together the senior people within the food and drink sector.
British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds said it was a “very useful” forum to discuss key issues and to highlight beer as Britain’s third largest food and drink export, worth £583m in 2016.
“There is huge scope to increase exports, and we will continue to work closely with DEFRA on this, with China as a key candidate country for a free trade agreement as we leave the EU,” said Simmonds.
“On Brexit we also stressed the importance of an immigration policy that allows the hospitality sector to meet its staffing needs, and the need for a free trade agreement and robust transitional arrangements, with frictionless trade, as we leave the EU, given that 60% of UK beer exports go to EU member states.”
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) also attended the meeting and expressed concern about both exports and imports of wine.
“As a follow up to the meeting I have also written a letter to Mr Gove spelling out what Government needs to do to protect the UK’s status as the number one global hub for wine imports and the world’s biggest exporter of spirits,” said WSTA chief executive Miles Beale.
“The UK drinks industry is incredibly important to the economy and we need to ensure Government is listening to industry to ensure we maintain free flows of trade now Brexit negotiations are underway.”
He added that over 1bn litres of UK spirits are exported to foreign markets, including more than 200m bottles of gin.