The state of play for UK food exports

The Food and Drink Federation and Santander have launched a joint report detailing the last two years of international exports from the UK.

20 December 2019
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  • H1 (first half) 2019 exports of food and drink increased by 5.1% year-on-year to £11.3bn, which was largely driven by growth in the value of exports to non-EU countries (+9.8%), with growth over four times that of exports to the EU.
  • While year-on-year growth in the value of food and drink exports exceeded 11% in Q1 (first quarter), the second quarter of the year saw a decline on the same period in 2018 (-0.6%), with figures being impacted by evidence of stockpiling.
  • Ireland (£2bn) was the UK’s top trading partner in 2019 but product export value fell by 1.9%, the first time this has happened since 2015. A decline in exports of cereals and flours and meat-based products are partly to blame.
  • France and USA (both £1.1bn), Holland (£851.6) and Germany (£730.4m) make up the rest of the top five UK trading partners.
  • All of the UK’s highest value exported products have grown in H1 2019, with whisky, salmon, wine, gin, and pork increasing by over 10% on the same period last year. .
  • Salmon was the top exported food product in 2019, with an H1 2019 value of £400m, which represents a 28.1% increase in value from 2018 and a volume increase of 24.7% – the biggest percentage increase of the products in the top 10.
  • Chocolate, with an H1 2019 value of £357.2m, was the third most exported food stuff. However, its value only increased by 4.7% and volume by 3.7%.
  • UK food and drink exports have grown by 85% over the last decade to Japan (up by 23% in 2019). From the UK’s top 20 exported products in 2018 to the Asian country, cheese (+302%) and animal fats (+145%) recorded the fastest growth.
  • UK exports to the USA have grown over the past 10 years by 147% from £0.9bn in 2008 to £2.2bn in 2018, with fish/seafood the second biggest product export last year (£187.8m).
  • Fish/seafood was the biggest food export to China in 2018 (£138m).
  • High import tariffs mean the UK is yet to unlock food export potential in India, with sauces, extracts and ice cream (£4.2m) the biggest food export in 2018.
  • The report states that, with a sizeable middle class with an appetite for western products, the UAE is one of the top three untapped markets in terms of potential, with cereals and flour last year’s most exported food product (£51.5m).

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