Wales was the only UK nation that exceeded pre-Covid food and drink export levels last year, a new report by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) shows.
Food and drink exports across the UK are slowly recovering from the challenges of the pandemic, the report, released on Monday (9 May), says.
It shows that Scotland, Wales, the West Midlands and the North East of England had the strongest export growth, reflecting recovery from the supply chain problems caused by Covid.
Overall, England was the worst performing nation during 2021. Food and drink exports totalled £10.2bn in 2021, down 9% from 2020, and 15% lower than in 2019.
England’s biggest food and drink export category, beverages, was worth £2.3bn with sales up nearly 8% in 2021, but still down on pre-Covid sales from 2019.
Most categories are down on pre-Covid levels during 2021. Vegetables and fruit had been hit hardest, with sales down nearly 36%.
Ireland was the top destination for exports in England, buying nearly 15% of all exports, worth £1.5bn in 2021. However these sales are down a quarter since.
The report says that Scotland now accounts for the largest share of UK food and drink exports, with almost 30% of total exports. This was worth £5.7bn, up 14.6% since 2020.
France is Scotland’s largest export partner, overtaking the United States, with exports now worth more than £1 billion.
Scottish food and drink exports to China nearly doubled in 2021 to nearly £225 million, making up 4% of the nation's exports.
However, Wales is the only UK nation to exceed pre-Covid export levels, driven by strong exports of cereals, up 173% since 2020, and now worth nearly £140m to the economy.
Ireland is Wales’ largest export partner, with exports up 7% since 2020. Strong growth was seen in exports to France and Belgium, growing 42% and 163% respectively.
The share of exports to non-EU markets is also increasing, with strong growth recorded in London as firms look to take advantage of the UK's new post-Brexit trade deals.
However, the FDF says that more can be done to improve the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement, to help companies recover exports in the EU.
The FDF's chief executive Karen Betts said: “It’s very encouraging to see exports starting to recover across many parts of the UK, with companies starting to pull out of Covid-related disruption and adapting to the UK’s new trading relationships.
"Every product we export is rooted in our culture and our communities, and it’s great to see that our food and drink is sought out by consumers all over the world."
The FDF says that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not factored into this report.