Here’s a meal fit for a king: Scottish salmon for starters, washed down with a fine Kentish wine followed by Northumbrian reared steak and a Cumberland sausage or two, all chased with a Cornish beer.
For pudding there’s a Stinking Bishop or Colston Bassett Stilton cheese, accompanied by Hotel Chocolat’s patisserie chocolates with a sip of malt whisky or mother’s ruin if you prefer.
And what a choice. In the north there are now gins being distilled in Liverpool and Leeds as well as Manchester’s Thomas Dakin Gin.
Best of British: Whisky, salmon and beer all top the list of ‘Made in Britain’ exports by value
From Devon comes Salcombe Gin while the Welsh have a Hibernation Gin – all of which can be mixed with Fever-Tree tonics, another of the UK’s fastest-growing companies.
All the above British delicacies are among hundreds of brands and products which have either been created from scratch or revived over the last few decades.
So it’s great news that this revival in tip-top food and drink products, coupled with the weakness of the pound, has led to a boom in British exports in the sector.
It’s a remarkable turnaround from the lacklustre fare once associated with British cuisine, and especially heartening because of the wealth these new businesses are bringing to the regions.
Whisky, salmon and beer – which has beaten chocolate to take third place – top the list of Made in Britain exports by value.
Exports rose by a healthy 8.5 per cent in the first half of the year to £10.5bn; whisky alone accounted for £1.8bn. Branded goods were the highest value yet on record.
Demand: The Prince of Wales samples some prize-winning English wine
As well as the ‘ginnaissance’, there’s a roaring demand for English wines – especially now that varieties from Norfolk and North Hampshire vineyards such as Winbirri and Coates & Seely are scooping up so many international awards.
The industry is one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors with the number of acres planted with grapevines jumping by 135 per cent over the past decade. No wonder that exports rose by 15 per cent and now go to more than 27 countries.
Contrary to recent export trends, the biggest growth in exports was to EU27 countries, with a 9 per cent rise year on year.
The EU still imports the lion’s share from the UK with 61 per cent.
However, the push by government and export agencies to help small companies sell overseas appears to be paying off. Exports to China rose by more than a third while those to South Korea – led by craft beer – were up 77 per cent.
The sharpest rise of exports to EU countries was goods being sold to Belgium – up more than a third to £340m – which can’t be explained entirely by the well-known appetite of Brussels-based EU president, Jean-Claude Juncker.
There are two sides to sterling’s weakness. We still import more food and drink than we produce so the deficit rose because of sterling’s decline.
But that has its silver lining too, since it should make the EU more open to doing the best possible trade deal after Brexit. Juncker will not want to pay too much for his malt whisky.
Vikings going for AIM
At first glance, the decision by HM Revenue & Customs to give Nasdaq First North ‘growth market status’ so that UK-based investors can receive tax exemptions when they invest in UK companies listed on the Nordic exchange looks fairly boring.
Here’s yet another jumped-up junior exchange hoping that the tax exemptions will lure British companies and investors to list and invest on its growth markets rather than on London’s AIM. So what’s the worry?
AIM is by far the bigger exchange, having raised £100bn of capital since launched. It has 960 companies listed. First North has 300.
Yet it would be dangerous to underestimate First North’s ambitions. Nasdaq has always had its eye on London’s business and with Brexit coming up, sees an opportunity to seduce investors and companies on to its exchange.
The Vikings have been here before but not with the Americans backing them. AIM should be on red alert.
Care for the elderly
Caring for the elderly is a fragile business. As our story on page 102 highlights, the sale of 150 Bupa care homes to HC-One will leave the group piled with some £600m of debt.
That’s a troubling amount, and might put enormous strains on the business. After the Southern Cross disaster, the Departments of Health – and Business – should scrutinise this takeover until the pips squeak.
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