Study reveals export boom for medium UK businesses

Two-fifths of medium-sized UK businesses have increased their exports according to latest research by Bibby Financial Services.

Though Defra no longer compiles comprehensive data for horticultural import and export markets, HTA marketing director Andrew Maxted said its member growers were seeing export growth.

"HTA growers are reporting increased opportunities in business interest from Continental sources, largely driven by the favourable exchange rates," he revealed.

To exploit the opportunity, the association is working hard to attract Continental buyers to the HTA National Plant Show at Stoneleigh Park next June, he added.

According to MEC marketing and ethics consultant for IPM Essen Dr Susanne Lux, the UK has greatly reduced its imports, which is a sign of the impact of the effect of the exchange rate.

She said: "The British cut flower market was particularly affected. At the end of 2008, imports to Great Britain were already 20 per cent lower than the previous year and by the end of September 2009 they had fallen by another 17 per cent."

The Bibby research revealed that 41 per cent of businesses have experienced growth in exports, while 31 per cent said the pound/euro exchange rates had had a positive impact on them. It also found that the economic downturn had prompted 29 per cent of businesses to refocus their efforts towards international markets.

The research polled 200 small and medium-sized firms across a range of sectors to highlight the effects of the recession on UK import-export markets.

But despite the encouraging signs, the study also found that 42 per cent of businesses said access to finance had diminished for UK exporters. And 56 per cent said they felt the fluctuating exchange rate was the biggest problem for businesses looking to trade overseas.

 

DOWNTURN FOR FRENCH HORTICULTURE

While the UK benefits from the exchange rate, France is increasingly dependent on horticultural imports, buying in nearly seven times more by value than it exports - a deficit that continues to grow, according to official figures.

Imports in 2008 were EUR1.06bn (£1.43bn), while exports were EUR163m (£145m). Five years ago France's imports were valued at five times its exports.

Exports of outdoor plants have fallen annually since 2003 - a total of 13 per cent - and are now valued at EUR118m (£105m), while cut flower exports are down 27 per cent to EUR15m (£13.4m).

Michel Fourmillier, representative of growers in the southern department of Var, a major growing region, said: "Producers in the horticulture sector are in a very worrying economic situation."

He blamed France's carbon tax, falling revenues, rising costs, "unfair" competition and lack of government support.


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