Norfolk business backs calls for ‘culture’ change on exports

Chris Payne of GlassGuard in Thetford.

Chris Payne of GlassGuard in Thetford. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

The government must invest in manufacturing and support access to non-EU markets to bolster the region's export potential, according to exporters in Norfolk.

Natures Menu in Watton. From left, business development director Peter Roy and MD Craig Taylor. Pict

Natures Menu in Watton. From left, business development director Peter Roy and MD Craig Taylor. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A national drive to reduce the trade deficit would be boosted by making it easier to export to non-EU markets such as India, China, the US and Canada, business leaders have said.

It comes as a report has claimed that the 'huge task' of improving the UK's exports will require business to sit at the top table of government.

The Cole Commission report – spearheaded by Labour and Graham Cole, the chairman of helicopter manufacturer AugustaWestland – has tackled the issue of only one in five small businesses exporting overseas and not enough manufacturers.

David Mawdsley, managing director of North Walsham-based Laplace Instruments, an SME which supplies test equipment, said the government had failed to support manufacturing industries in the way it had supported city banks and financial services.

'If we are serious about exports, we have to change the culture. UK governments for the last generation have favoured the service sector and dismissed manufacturing as...something we can buy-in from overseas,' said Mr Mawdsley. '[They] have been quite happy to see industry run down and replaced by cheaper imports, but they have been very concerned about the prospect of city institutions and banks relocating to Hong Kong.'

One of Norfolk's fastest growing exporters, pet food manufacturer Natures Menu, based in Watton, said exporting would be easier if complex paperwork outside the EU was cut.

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'Selling in the EU is easy. Being part of the EU is very important for us,' said Peter Roy, business development director. 'But getting accreditation for our products outside the EU is much harder. It could be easier.'

Getting business representation at government level was key to airing these concerns, said Chris Payne, managing director of Thetford-based GlassGuard, which produces shatter-proof lamps.

'I think the government listens to big corporations, but considering that about 90pc of UK business is not corporations, collectively we should have a big voice,' said Mr Payne.

Daniel Beeby, director of e-commerce Archway Cards, a Norwich-based exporter of cards and stationary, said governments could subsidise translation and shipping services to make it easier to do business – and could even offer up embassy and industry contacts to help companies get a foothold in new countries.

'Without these kinds of steps I remain sceptical that exporting will get easier,' he added.

What changes would your business like to see made to exports? Contact business writer Jessica Staufenberg by emailing