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The post-Brexit hard sell for British food in Asia

The post-Brexit hard sell
The post-Brexit hard sell

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The post-Brexit hard sell: Delving into the complex web of Asian culinary traditions is like removing the layers of discourse from a weather discussion: it unveils a vibrant tapestry of fragrances, flavors, and customs. Even the most seasoned foodies found themselves suddenly at a loss for words when the BBC reunited at one of Asia’s top gastronomic gatherings to highlight the irresistible charm of particular cuisines.

Amidst the busy masses of people, the mention of “British food” was met with curious looks and puzzled reactions. With a bewildered expression on her face, a Thai woman timidly asked, “British food? My understanding is a bit clouded. Could it be like sausage? An adjacent Malaysian gentleman, his tone somewhat tinged with amusement, scoffed at it, calling it “boring” and “nothing special.”

These honest responses are a harsh reality check for British exporters who had hoped to spread their culinary heritage to other countries after Brexit. In 2021, the former UK trade secretary Liz Truss had high hopes for the food industry, predicting a “golden opportunity” for British chefs to become world famous. But the truth is rather different; when compared to its European competitors, the UK lags behind in terms of sales and culinary praise.

Somerdale International’s perceptive managing director Stephen Jones muses on the difficulty of culinary diplomacy. Amidst the lively atmosphere of the FHA Food and Beverage Trade Show in Singapore, Jones tries to introduce locals to the subtleties of British cheeses, such as the crumbly Wensleydale and the strong Stinking Bishop. The Italian tent, which included Michelin-starred chefs and other culinary greats, was far grander than the humble British pavilion, even though the South East Asian customers’ joy at trying Wensleydale for the first time was obvious.

Italian culinary diplomacy is more than just a business venture; it is a celebration of Italian culture and heritage. The role of trade exhibits in Italy’s diplomacy, according to Italian Ambassador Dante Brandi, is to spread the Italian culinary and lifestyle essence all over the world.

Regardless of the passing of time or political regimes, the vast disparity in food exports between Italy and the United Kingdom reflects more systemic inequalities. The immense success of Italian food exports, which reached a record €64.4 billion in 2021, demonstrates the deep-seated dedication to culinary quality that permeates Italy’s economy.

Although there has been some improvement, British food exporters still feel they don’t have enough help from the government to succeed at international trade events. The Food and Drink Exporters Association’s Karen Beston laments the obvious financing gap that puts British exporters at a disadvantage compared to their more adequately supported European competitors.

As a counterargument, the British government has been singing the praises of its trade policy since Brexit, praising the opening of new prospects in the rapidly developing economies of Asia. British ministers laud the benefits of being a “independent trading nation.” British food and drink exports to Asia exceed £3.5 billion. The critical need for coordinated government assistance and strategic partnerships is highlighted by the wide gap in growth rates between Italian and British exports to Asia.

The enticing fragrances of many cuisines from around the world are filling the air, tempting even the most discriminating eaters to go on culinary adventures, while the culinary scene in Asia vividly appears on the horizon. Rising wages, globalization, and the pervasive impact of social media are driving seismic upheavals in Asian food preferences, according to Japnit Singh, the astute chief operating officer of Spire Research & Consulting.

After Brexit, Britain is taking a daring culinary leap into unexplored culinary terrain by shifting its focus to Asia’s expansive and rapidly growing markets. The complex web of post-Brexit trade dynamics casts a long shadow over Britain’s gastronomic ambitions, even while free trade agreements and economic liberalization are enticing.

The story of British exporters is told through mouth-watering bites in the history of culinary diplomacy, where food goes beyond being just food and becomes a physical manifestation of national pride and cultural identity. Stephen Jones of Somerdale International makes a valid point when he says that in the middle of the whirlwind of international trade, the modest Wensleydale cheese is a powerful symbol of Britain’s lasting culinary legacy that has won over palates and hearts on every continent.

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