The Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) has sent a joint letter to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade, regarding its concerns about the Trade Access Programme (TAP) funding.
This was done to reinforce the message in the letter sent by Export Partners UK to the two ministers, outlining the support British manufacturers require to rise to the challenges of promoting an export business while international travel is limited as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The main concern of the Export Partners letter is the lack of action being taken to introduce the necessary flexibility required to help exporters adapt to virtual tradeshows and conferences. TAP is designed to help fund companies accessing new markets, but the Department for International Trade is said to have been unable to agree to the kind of changes that would be required to help support exporters adapt to the modern technology that makes digital tradeshows possible. This is in stark contrast to many of the UK’s biggest competitors in the EU, and has reportedly already seen British exporters lose out on significant exports in recent months.
FEA’s letter, signed by chief executive Keith Warren, explains the size of the foodservice equipment sector and its importance to a range of other sectors, as well as highlighting the current pressures being felt by members of FEA. Supplier members have experienced a loss of sales amounting to 85% of turnover pre-Covid-19, and between 20-30% of staff are having to be made redundant to adjust to this downturn. FEA is urging the government to implement the requests in the Export Partners’ letter to prevent any further loss of business.
These include wiping the TAP slate clean for 2020/21 in order to provide support for more established businesses attempting to adapt to the current situation, providing additional funding to help during these exceptional circumstances, supporting virtual trade fairs, as well as developing alternatives for companies where virtual presentations are not suitable and allowing for more flexibility if trade shows are delayed.
With the importance of the UK’s foodservice equipment industry to both the domestic economy and global export markets, FEA believes that action must be taken swiftly by the government to protect it during these unprecedented changes being forced on it, as well as to nurture it to ensure future success.