Can tea, jam and beer save the British economy?

The government has a post-Brexit plan… but it may not be a cunning one

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Sandringham Flower Show - Norfolk

The world is said to be clamouring for British food and drink. As part of the government's post-Brexit strategy, Andrea Leadsom has launched the somewhat self-importantly titled 'International Action Plan for Food and Drink'. The idea is that there are several markets across the world where we could make billions from selling food and drink. All we need to do is inspire British companies to sell to these countries, and they'll be snapping up our hot cakes like well, urm...

She has a point. After-all the collapse of the pound may make it increasingly difficult for the British to afford the weekly shop, but it makes British products cheaper for other countries to buy. The only flaw in the plan was revealed when she came to listing some of the markets where she sees new opportunities.

Japan was one of them: Leadsom said there was a growing demand there for classic British items, like afternoon tea and beef.

It would be interesting to see where this demand for beef is coming from, because British beef is banned in Japan - and has been since 2001 because of the threat of mad cow disease - so unless there's a thriving black market, at best this demand is theoretical.

Officials in the department claim the ban is no barrier to export, and that it's not saying beef will be flooding into Japan tomorrow, but that it expects it to be a major export market within five years. Quite how it can have this confidence is again a mystery.

Then there's the idea of exporting British tea. There is one tea plantation in England, in Tregothnan in Cornwall. However, it is a drop in the ocean of the tea we consume. It means your English breakfast tea and Yorkshire tea is all imported from overseas. It's hard to see how we can generate a thriving British export industry based entirely on imports.

Likewise, the proud declaration that we will be exporting British marmalade to Japan faces some questions. Again, the British orange-growing industry is going to have to step up a gear to make that happen, or we'll have to keep importing our oranges from Spain - which as it is in the EU will require a new trade agreement.

Another key market promoted by the government is Australia - which is apparently desperate for UK beer. Unfortunately, the rate of beer drinking has been declining rapidly in Australia for years, as the population drinks less overall, and switches to wine or goes teetotal. The only sector of the beer market that is growing is local craft beers - and the UK is hardly local.

Other markets mentioned in the report are already pretty saturated, such as the Mexican whisky market, which is up 10% in a year - and more than 90% of that is Scottish. It seems like we don't need a major governmental drive in this area

To be fair, there were a couple of markets the department mentioned that are real opportunities - like the booming cider market in New Zealand. The question is whether this is enough to build a post-Brexit economy on, or whether the government will have to come up with something more creative than exporting more jam.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.