Exports of Port fell by 5% in volume last year, the region's trade body has said as it launches a new promotional push in the UK.

Economic downturns in Port's major export markets of the US and UK are to blame for the dip, George Sandeman, vice president of the Port Institute (IVDP), told just-drinks today (14 January).

His comments came at a Discover the Origin event in London, a promotional scheme designed to emphasise the protected name status of selected food and drink.

Port producers have joined forces with others, including Burgundy wines and Parma ham, which also enjoy Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status under EU law.

They hope to raise awareness, and ultimately sales, by briefing key members of the consumer-facing drinks trade and also the media on the importance of provenance.

Nearly a third of UK consumers aged between 25 and 55 said that they would be prepared to spend more on food and drink with PDO status, according to a survey conducted by YouGov in November last year.

Port producers are keen to capitalise on this sentiment, but the IVDP also has its sights on emerging markets, according to both Sandeman and the body's marketing chief, Paulo Russell-Pinto.

Latin America, led by Brazil, and Russia are two markets that may hold significant potential for Port, they said. Pinto added, however, that the US market also still holds "enormous potential".

Asked whether the economic downturn would continue to curtail exports, Sandeman said that 2009 would be tough but that producers have to look further ahead.

"It would be foolish not to be concerned, but we are prepared to handle it. Port has been in growth over the last decade, and it has been through at least one civil war, world wars and tough economic periods before."