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Cornwall’s global export success

Cornwall is seeing a strong growth in a range of industries, from green energy production to mining and space, all attracting businesses and investment to the region – however there is equal success in what Cornwall has to offer the global market.

Cornwall’s export market is experiencing significant growth and strengthening the region’s economy across a range of sectors – bringing an exciting accompaniment to the staple of pasties and cream teas.

Built on the foundations made by the region’s fishermen and farmers, Cornwall’s food and drink sector has proven itself a cornerstone of the UK food economy. The industry sees an annual turnover in excess of £2 billion with the region’s world-renowned restaurants and produce contributing significantly to the economy. And it’s not just its success on home turf that makes it one of Cornwall’s most valuable sectors – the region exports more than £800 million in food and drink produce every year.

Plate of food

As a result of the pandemic and businesses moving their produce online, Cornwall’s food and drink export market has accelerated its offering even further. Companies like Cornish Sea Salt, who are now shipping to over thirty countries, have experienced a huge jump in global export revenue in the past year. 

Already home to leading, sustainable farm-to-table practices, businesses within the region are now looking at ways they can further reduce their environmental impact across the supply chain – particularly seeking carbon neutral modes of exportation and transportation.

Chocolate, coffee and rum are now arriving in the region, and leaving, by sail as businesses work towards a greener way of exporting their products. Chocolarder is one of the only small-batch bean-to-bar makers in the country. They produce sustainable chocolate which is transported using wind power – with the company shipping as many beans this way as possible from each year’s harvest. New Horizons Traders, who offer this transportation service, load the cocoa from the farmers directly into their hold for the journey back to Falmouth – the chocolate is then exported in the same way to Europe and the USA. In the past year, 18.9% of sales of Chocolarder’s sea salt caramel truffles, which were in the hotel rooms at Carbis Bay during G7, have been exported – including to Japan and America.

Combining responsible farming and fishing with carbon neutral transporting of goods, as Cornwall’s food and drink market continues to grow, so does the innovation behind it. This is then accelerated in close collaboration with the agritech industry, resulting in pioneering projects looking to transform food and drink production. Cornwall-based startup business, GlasData, who have recently begun to export their services to New Zealand, is driven to simplify the world of precision farming and unlock the value of the data it produces; saving farmers time and money while improving efficiency and yields.

“There are a lot of things Cornwall does well, but one thing that especially stands out is food and drink. Steeped in centuries old tradition, with farming practices dating back to pre-roman times and fishing practices handed down through generations, it’s no wonder that Cornwall’s export market is growing exponentially. People are recognising the value of what they put on their plate – and what Cornwall can offer the UK and the rest of the world is quality produce with purpose at its heart.” Says Cornwall-based Michelin Star Chef Paul Ainsworth   

From the production of food to the production of goods, there are over 1300 manufacturing companies in Cornwall and the industry contributes over £730m annually to the economy. The region sells upwards of half a billion pounds worth of goods a year overseas with around 40% of goods made being exported internationally.

Cornwall is home to world-leading manufacturing companies like Watson-Marlow Limited, a peristaltic pumps and tubing manufacturer based in Falmouth, and Redruth based DP Engineering – a key exporter to the aerospace industry. Watson Marlow has been integral to the manufacture of equipment in the fight against Covid-19. From its base in the region it has direct sales operations in 24 countries and distributors in 50 others, with export counting for more than 85% of the company’s turnover.

The strength of Cornwall’s long standing manufacturing industry is supported by one of the region’s other key sectors – mining. As the continuous ambition to develop next generation technologies and applications is driving the global commercial demand, and price, for base and high-technology metals – key elements in many of these manufacturing activities – the industry holds huge export potential. Cornwall has a rich abundance of high-grade lithium, tin, copper and tungsten ready to be extracted and with the region predicted to be able to supply up to  ⅔ of Britain’s Lithium needs – the equivalent of one million electric vehicles per year – there has been a significant increase in the industry’s prospective export market.

But it’s more than the natural capital Cornwall has to offer that gives its mining industry global reach. Cornwall has over 100 mining service businesses who export their expertise in responsible and sustainable extraction, like Petrolab who provides technical support services to the mining, minerals processing and materials industries worldwide. The consultancy, which has been running for 25 years, was recently licensed to operate in Nevada, USA.

The exportation of services extends beyond mining to Cornwall’s growing tech cluster too. In the last year the South West tech sector saw an annual turnover of £9bn. Tech hotspots Truro and Redruth are home to found 2,300+ people working in technological occupations and the sector in Cornwall produces a turnover in excess of £50 million – an increase of more than 30% from 2014. Additionally, it contributes £93 million GVA for the economy.

With world-leading companies exporting their products and services across the globe, small businesses revolutionising the transportation of goods to minimise their impact and increase sustainability, and dedicated services to help businesses begin their international journey, Cornwall has become a prime example of how a region can maximise its assets and grow its export market through innovation and home-grown expertise.

Nicola Lloyd, Director of Trade and Investment, Cornwall Trade and Investment: “Cornwall’s export strength across a range of sectors is a key part of the economy. The region is home to significant innovation in the food, tech, mining and manufacturing industries, as well as collaboration across these, so it’s only natural that these products and services have worldwide interest. We are excited to see the global reach of Cornwall’s businesses grow.”

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