UK Export Finance (UKEF) guaranteed £2.32bn worth of exports in 2011-2012, a drop from the 2010-2011 record of £2.92bn.

The British Exporters’ Association (BexA) expresses disappointment over the results, and raises concerns about the lack of awareness of the ECA’s new products targeted at small exporters. Guillaume Simonnet, BExA’s deputy chairman, says: “We accept that this is a long-term initiative but at the same time the recruitment of high calibre and performance-driven export finance advisers, to be based in the regions, has been too slow. It is of utmost importance that these advisers make UKEF’s new products better known to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and medium-sized businesses (MSBs) who do not in most cases understand the benefit of using UKEF products to offer competitive commercial terms to overseas customers.”

However, UKEF chief executive Patrick Crawford hails this year as a success, adding that the agency has met the challenges of backing exporters with its medium-term products, and of responding to the needs of smaller exports “where they have not been able to find finance and insurance from commercial sources”.

Despite the drop in value, the export credit agency (ECA) issued more guarantees and insurance policies (204) than last year (192), and the number of claims paid declined dramatically from 30 to six.

Support worth £93mn was provided under the new short-term products, introduced in early 2011 to help smaller companies gather the guarantees they had difficulty getting from the private market.

UK minister for trade and investment, Lord Green, welcomes this result, adding that SMEs also benefit indirectly from UKEF’s activity. “Although its customer base for these products is relatively small, many companies, including SMEs, indirectly benefit from this support through the supply chains of the prime exporters, including companies in the commercial aerospace, oil and gas, construction, steel, transportation and process engineering sectors,” he says.