Essex pig farm doubles exports after lockdown hits foodservice sales

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has highlighted the success of an Essex pig farm to showcase her department’s role in promoting food exports.

A press release from the Department for International Trade explains how Wicks Manor has doubled its export revenue in Asia and the Middle East during lockdown to help offset losses in food service sector, saving jobs and reducing waste.

With pubs and restaurants reopening on Saturday, the family farm business, like others across the country, is preparing to resume supplying its premium pork products to eateries across the country. But during lockdown, the business faced a sharp drop in sales to pubs and restaurants, which typically account for 45% of its revenue.

However, since April, its exports to customers worldwide have doubled, including a surge in demand for its premium bacon and sausages in the Middle East and Asia. This was after the business sought support from DIT to ramp up its exports to supermarkets in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Owner Fergus Howie said international trade had provided a lifeline during the pandemic. “Our exports would usually account for 20% of sales, however since April we have been able increase them to 40%,” he said.

Fergus howie Wicks Manor Products“The importance of diversifying our sales across different markets has been laid bare during this difficult time. We are now focused on maintaining export growth while preparing to return to supplying pubs and restaurants.

“We’re grateful to the Department for International Trade for the support they have provided in securing new routes to market, and I would certainly encourage other UK food producers to do the same.”

Wicks Manor’s pigs are either born and bred on the farm or sourced from local East Anglian rearers. They are fed grains grown on site, and the pork is then prepared and packaged at the family butchery, allowing the company to maintain complete control over the production of its meats from start to finish.

The business started exporting in 2010, when it secured a contract with a supermarket in Dubai. Since then it has expanded to 10 new markets in Asia, Middle East and Europe, where its products are especially popular with British expats missing a taste of home.

Thanks to the recent export growth, the family business has been able to maintain nearly a full staff count of 45 employees and avoid food going to waste during the pandemic.

Liz Truss

Liz Truss

Ms Truss said:  “Even in these challenging times, businesses like Wicks Manor are showing that there is clear appetite for British produce around the world.

“Exporting will play a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery from the Coronavirus, and my department is committed to delivering greater export opportunities for UK businesses through new free trade agreements.

“Now, more than ever, we need UK businesses to follow in the footsteps of exporters like Wicks Manor and showcase their produce on the world stage”.

In 2019, exports of bacon, ham, sausages and related products were worth £107.4 million, an increase of 9.3% compared to 2018. Pork exports have remained strong this year, 2% up on 2019 in the first four months of the year, driven by further growth to China, which accounted for half of all UK exports in April.

Last month, the UK Government announced that it intends to pursue accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as a key part of its trade negotiations programme.

It said this would help the UK economy overcome the unprecedented challenge posed by coronavirus, including by opening up new opportunities for UK exporters in strategically important sectors.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.