The Government is spearheading a fresh drive to encourage more export sales of beer from smaller British brewers. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is convening a steering committee involving a number of associations, including the Brewing, Food and Beverage Industry Suppliers Association (BFBi), which represents the entire chain linked to beer production, to discuss how to ramp up export sales. The Government has come under pressure from industry in general to do more to boost exports after slashing the budget for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), which provides Trade Access Programme (TAP) grants to fund trade delegations abroad, from £20m to £6m over recent years. The BFBi is among the groups on the new committee, along with the Food and Drink Exporters Association and the UKTI. Its first meeting is due in July. “DEFRA has put this committee together to see how we can best work in partnership,” said BFBi chief executive Ruth Evans. “The ultimate aim is to provide export services to allow UK companies to sell more products abroad.” Agriculture minister Jim Paice was asked in Parliament what steps DEFRA is taking to support micro breweries. Paice replied: “The Government is committed to working with the food and drink industry, to help it take full advantage of the potential for growth through overseas trade, including by identifying global market opportunities and tackling barriers to exports. DEFRA has met with the Brewing, Food and Beverage Industry Suppliers Association to discuss the extent to which micro-breweries might be able to take advantage of this potential.” Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) commercial director Nick Stafford said the group is not involved in the latest talks. He said SIBA has “never really found a useful way of getting exports out there”. “It’s about finding agents that are prepared to take a risk with buying products and exporting them,” Stafford said. According to most recent HM Revenue & Customs figures, total annual UK beer exports hit 3,352,100 barrels in 2009.