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Major trade links can be made in China, says minister

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Written by: Hannah Baker | Posted 08 February 2018 10:29

Major trade links can be made in China, says minister

Rona Fairhead, Minister for trade and export promotion at the Department for International Trade (DIT), is encouraging Bristol businesses to take advantage of the growing demand for British food and drink in China.

China is now the world’s second-largest economy after the US and a vast and an expanding market for UK businesses. Its increasing number of middle-income consumers makes it the fastest-growing market for British food and drink, with the total value of exports rising by a third to £438m in 2016.

Baroness Fairhead said: “I recently went on a fact-finding mission to China. During my visit I was struck by the scale of the opportunities available for UK food and drink companies.

“As part of the Food is GREAT campaign, DIT and Defra recently supported a group of British food and drink businesses, including many from the South West, at a major tradeshow in Shanghai to forge new trade ties.

“Half of the businesses who exhibited had no previous experience in the Chinese market, and many left with orders – a real testament to the appetite for what the UK offers. Significant Chinese demand is evident for beer and dairy, both of which are booming on Bristol’s food scene.”

Doing business with China does, of course, bring with it some strategic and logistical challenges.  

Baroness Fairhead says businesses looking to export to any foreign country will first need to develop practical ways to navigate language and time differences.

Read more: Bristol could be UK’s Silicon Valley, says chief secretary to Treasury

Rona Fairhead

Rona Fairhead, Minister for trade and export promotion at the Department for International Trade 

She said: “China is not one single market. There are different regional economies and economic hubs. Businesses looking to capitalise on Chinese demand need to understand these economic and cultural differences. Investing time into thoroughly researching the market and rooting your business plan in insight will place you in a stronger position for success.

“In China, personal relationships are very important and building trust is key. You’re expected to be well prepared for every interaction and will need to ensure that facts are 100 per cent accurate.”

On a practical level, the due diligence process will need to be just as thorough as it would be in the UK.

Businesses should run a credit check before agreeing to an international contract and take out appropriate insurance. For food and drink firms specifically, goods exported to China must comply with domestic legislation including some requirements for labelling in Chinese.

Labels must clearly indicate country of origin of the product and the name and address of the Chinese distributor, alongside the net weight, ingredients, date of production and expiry date. 

In the South West, food and drink exports to China increased by 260 per cent between 2015 and 2016, proving that these challenges are not barriers. With support from DIT and Defra, Bristol firms such as Pieminister and Bramley & Gage are already seeing huge growth in China.

Deb Barber, chief executive of Cardiff Airport, says there is a “vibrant market for importing and exporting freight into and out of the South West and Wales”, which is currently valued at over £71 billion annually.

She said: “The launch of direct flights to Doha from Cardiff with Qatar Airways from May 1 using a Boeing 787 aircraft, will add even more value to this market, by creating 10 tonnes of freight capacity with each departure and, in turn, creating stronger links for businesses between our region and key markets across the Middle East, China, Japan and further afield.”

Baroness Fairhead added: “The level of support available to food and drink businesses looking to export has never been greater. At DIT, we have 25 International Trade Advisers based in the South West, on hand to support Bristol-based firms navigate these challenges and capitalise on the opportunities. 

“So I would encourage all local firms to take advantage of the opportunities and this support to make exporting to China a key part of your business plans.”

Read more: Bristol science and tech hub generates more than £2million for region’s economy in first year

About Fast Growth 50

Fast-growing businesses are key to driving the region’s economy forward, creating jobs and increasing productivity. The South West Fast Growth 50 is highlighting the 50 fastest-growing companies based on turnover over the past three years.

Western Daily Press editor Gavin Thompson said: “As a region we have so much to celebrate. We have some remarkable long-established businesses which are mainstays of our economy and major employers.

“But it’s the fast-growing companies today which will become those powerhouses of tomorrow. These companies are innovating and scaling up, and their success is vital to the prosperity of the region.

“So we plan to celebrate them in the South West Fast Growth 50, and by sharing their stories I hope we also help other businesses to emulate their success. Being in the South West Fast Growth 50 will be a badge of honour for those who make it.”

The initiative is the brainchild of Bristol Post columnist Professor Dylan Jones-Evans, who created the Wales Fast Growth 50 which has just celebrated its 19th year.

He said: “Research has shown that a small number of innovative firms create the majority of jobs and this project will celebrate the achievements of those entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses and making a real difference to the economy of the region.”

All the companies being featured in the final list have a minimum turnover of £250,000, are an independent or private business (not a franchise or subsidiary), and are based in the South West of England.

Sponsors include Dribuild, Fidelius Group, Cardiff Airport, Weston College, BOM IT Solutions and EDF Energy.

To become a Fast Growth 50 sponsor, contact


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