UK food and drink exports to the EU fell by nearly a half in the first three months of 2021 compared to last year.
Exports to the EU were down by £2bn, according to a report from the Food and Drink Federation, with sales to non-EU nations accounting for 55% of exports.
According to the FT, companies are struggling with the costs, paperwork and delays due to new customs and veterinary checks. Smaller businesses are having difficulties sending multiple shipments in a single load.
Although exports to non-EU countries were up slightly by 0.3% to £2bn, overall food and drink exports were down by 28.1% to £3.7bn.
Sales to Ireland, the UK’s biggest food and drink export market, were down by more than two thirds to £281m. Sales to Germany, Spain and Italy declined by more than half.
Growth in Asia
However, the FDF notes a “return to strong growth” in East Asian markets, including exports to China up 28.2% and South Korea up 18.5% compared to Q1 2020.
Dairy exports to the EU were hardest hit with a 90% drop in milk and cream sales, and cheese exports down by two thirds, reports Farming UK. Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the FDF called for more support for exporters.
“We set out a plan to mitigate these impacts by boosting support for exporters, and this was backed by the Trade and Agriculture Commission,” he said. “The Government must stop prevaricating and get behind these proposals to help exporters that have been shut out of trading with the EU.”
The government said overall exports to the EU in March and April were up on last year, and pointed to help for business including export helplines, webinars, trade advisers and a £20m Brexit support fund for SMEs.
It said the pandemic had depressed demand and it was too early to draw any conclusions on the impact of Brexit on trade with the EU.