Boost in UK food and drink exports to non-EU countries

Food and drink exports accounted for 6.4% of total UK exports over the year-to-date
Food and drink exports accounted for 6.4% of total UK exports over the year-to-date

Food and drink exports from the UK have increased by 8.3 percent to £6.2 billion as trade with non-EU countries continues to grow.

Growth in the third quarter of 2019 has been driven by a boost sales to non-EU member states (+13.1%), HMRC trade statistics shows.

Outside of the bloc, food and drink exports to the UK's seventh largest trading partner, China, have seen a significant increase.

Since Q3 2018, exports have risen by £64.6m to the second largest economy in the world, the largest value increase in over two decades.

Approximately 17% of UK food and drink exports to China were branded products.

Top UK products sold in China included meat (131.2%), fish and seafood (3.6%) and spirits (35.5%) in the first nine months of the year.

Looking at the UK's overall trade figures, the first nine months of the year showed a positive performance for food and drink exports.

All of the highest value exported products have grown, with whisky, salmon, wine, gin, and pork increasing by over 10% on the same period last year.

Salmon, beef and gin have also seen volume growth above 10%.

However, sales of branded goods to the EU have declined (-3.2%) in Q3 and over the first nine months of the year (-2.1%).

Analysing the figures, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) says this has not been helped by ongoing uncertainty around the future UK-EU trading relationship.

When looking at the UK’s top markets for branded goods, most of those within the EU have declined over the year-to-date, which reinforces anecdotal evidence that key buyers are starting to look elsewhere due to current uncertainty in the UK, the FDF says.

When looking solely at China, the country is typically seen as a challenging market by food and drink exporters, especially beef producers.

The UK’s high production standards and reputation for quality led to the successful conclusion of a UK-China agreement in June, securing significant market access for UK beef.

Defra forecasts this could be worth around £230m over the next five years. Latest exports figures show that £7.6m of UK beef has already been exported to China in 2019.

AHDB and Defra co-fund an Agriculture and Food Counsellor post to help increase UK food and drink exports to China.

This has provided sector-specific expertise in China to support UK food and drink and has helped deliver new market access for UK products over the last four years.

And, as the UK prepares to leave the EU, such support will be required in EU markets to maintain current export levels, the FDF says.

Gavin Darby, president of the group, said: “There remains significant untapped growth potential for UK food and drink exports.

“If we are to build on recent successes, the next government must ensure we have a dedicated future trade policy for food and drink which recognises our industry’s unique ability to deliver jobs and growth in every UK community.”