The UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), has been accused of failing midcap British companies.

A new report joint-authored by accountancy firm BDO and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) finds that only 52 SMEs received support from UKEF last year and calls for an expansionary policy that will allow the figure to rise to 250 by 2015.

While most midcaps view exporting as a priority and 78% expect to generate more revenue from exports over the next three years, a large number list lack of access to the requisite finance as the main restricting factor.

“There is a disturbing gap in export finance that is shackling the international ambitions of medium-sized businesses and could damage the UK economy’s long-term prospects,” says Katja Hall, the CBI’s chief policy director. “Government support has improved, but the reality is that they have not even scratched the surface when it comes to supporting the efforts of British medium-sized businesses. UKEF must reach out to far more businesses on the ground.”

In a response issued to GTR by a spokesperson, UKEF says that it supports many hundreds of smaller firms indirectly, through the supply chains of large manufacturers.

She continues: “We don’t have set targets for the number of firms we directly support, given our role is to complement available private market trade finance and insurance, and not compete with it. We are, however, investing in our network of regional advisers to ensure that exporters have improved access to the wide range of private market offerings as well as those provided by UKEF. Awareness is being raised through an integrated marketing campaign including direct approaches to exporters we think would most benefit from our services.”

The report defines midcap companies as those with turnovers of between £10mn and £500mn. One of its main concerns is the fall-away of the UK as a manufacturing and exporting hub.

Kim Hayward, international liaison partner with BDO notes that UK exports have fallen by almost 50% in the last 30 years. She says that the engine of exports growth must come from midsized companies.

She says: “Just over 5% of our exports are to the BRIC countries and we still export more to Ireland than to China. Clearly, the journey that UK businesses could, and should, now undertake goes beyond the traditional notion of exporting or selling abroad. But there are currently two barriers at play for midcaps: knowledge and support,. Midcaps need active help to understand their potential for international success and support to implement their plans.”