UK food and drink exports to European countries fall by a quarter while sales outside EU rise

Fri 17 Dec 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

UK food and drink exports to the EU are down by almost a quarter in nine months after the UK left the EU customs union compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by the Food & Drink Federation.

The fall is equivalent to £2.4bn in lost sales, with major European markets hit hard. Exports to Spain were down by half (50.6%), Germany by 44.5% and Italy by 43.3%, according to the FDF.

Sales to the Britain’s largest food export market, the Republic of Ireland, were down by more than a quarter, reports the Independent.

The FDF said post-Brexit transition trade rules and the pandemic were to blame for the slump and warned that the downturn could be “here to stay”.

Non-EU exports up

However sales to non-EU markets were up 11% during the period – some comfort to the government which is encouraging exporters to look beyond traditional markets.

Sales grew in some markets including China (22.1%), Taiwan (21.8%), the UAE (18.3%), Japan (10.6%) and Singapore (5.4%). 

Growth sectors

Not all sectors have suffered, reports the Grocer. Global exports of whisky and salmon have started to recover, with sales of both products up 21% compared with 2020.  

All other major products, including beef (–18.4%), cheese (–13.2%) and pork (–5.7%) have continued to decline with the exception of soft drinks, which grew 11% from 2020.  

As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, food and drink exports were worth £21.7bn in 2020 and are a key part of the government’s aim to boost British exports to £1 trillion by 2030.

New support

Eight new agri-food attaches have been created by the government to provide “boots on the ground” with support in key export targets.

Prime minister Boris Johnson highlighted the importance of food and drink at a food festival at Downing Street recently.

“We currently export to 207 countries but this government is supporting British food and drink exporters to sell even more of their brilliant produce abroad,” he said.

‘Work with the EU’

Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the FDF, said it was disappointing to see how badly trade with the EU had been affected, with smallest exporters hardest hit.

He urged the government to work constructively with the EU to improve the implementation of the year-old EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

 “It is vital that the UK government and devolved nations continue to work with industry to put in place a new model of partnership to support food and drink exporters,” Goudie said.