Food and drink exports hit record levels

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Food and drink exports reached record high levels in the first quarter of 2017
Food and drink exports reached record high levels in the first quarter of 2017

Related tags Drink exports European union International trade United kingdom

UK food and drink exports reached record high levels in the first quarter of 2017, driven by overseas sales of whisky, salmon and chocolate, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has revealed.

Food and drink exports increased by 8.3% to £4.9bn over the three months, compared with the same period last year. Export growth to non-EU countries was up 9.4%, while the number of exports to EU countries increased 7.4% (see charts below).

The FDF urged the next government to scale-up its export support for the food and drink sector. Currently, only 20% of food and drink manufacturers are actively exporting, it added.

The top three export destinations were Ireland, France and the US, the FDF reported.

FDF director general Ian Wright said: “The growth of food and alcoholic drink exports we’ve seen in the first quarter is very encouraging news for our industry. We would encourage the new government to look to Bord Bia ​[Irish Food Board] as inspiration in creating an organisation to help turbocharge sales of UK food and drink globally.

‘Government should look to Bord Bia’

“It is also very pleasing to see non-EU exports performing beyond expectations. As the UK leaves the EU, growth in exports is hugely important to our sector. We hope that with the determination of businesses and the assistance of the new government, we can open more channels and provide a further boost to the UK’s competitiveness on the world market.”

Whisky sales remained the UK’s most exported product increasing 3.5% in value in the first quarter, to £895.9M. Salmon exports increased 13% to £186.7M, while overseas chocolate sales were up 2.5% to £155.3M.

New food export conference

Arming food and drink manufacturers with the information they need to boost food and drink exports is the aim of William Reed’s new, one-day conference – Food & Drink Export Excellence 2017 – to take place on Thursday October 5 2017 at the Ardencote Hotel, Warwick. More details in the box below.

The value of exports also increased over the three months, owing to the pound’s weak value. Whisky, salmon and chocolate’s export value increased 9.9%, 52.3% and 6.4% respectively.

But, raw material and ingredient costs also increased, owing to sterling’s weak value, the FDF said. Therefore, the UK’s food and drink trade deficit increased 19% to -£6.2bn in 2017’s first-quarter, it added.

UK’s top 20 markets

All of the UK’s top 20 markets reported increased trade sales in the first quarter, except Spain, which decreased 21.6%. Ireland was the UK’s largest export market, generating £854.3M of exports. Half of the UK’s top export markets were EU countries.

Food and Drink Exporters Association director Elsa Fairbanks said: “We must not ignore the importance of existing, and very strong, EU markets which still represent 65% of food and drink exports. This must be a priority as Brexit negotiations start.

“Ease of access to EU markets will continue to be vital to our industry in future, as many food and drink products are not suited to export to distant markets. Although we recognise the need to explore new opportunities, leaving the EU should not mean ignoring those we already have.”

Meanwhile, in November 2016, the FDF revealed UK food and drink exports increased 12.1%​ to £3.4bn.

Food Export Excellence 2017 conference

The Food & Drink Export Excellence 2017 conference will identify the potential for growing food and drink exports pre- and post-Brexit. Conference delegates will be armed with key data about which markets and product categories offer the best prospects.

Organised by the Food Manufacture Group and sister William Reed titles British Baker​ and Meat Trades Journal, ​the event aims to help delegates position their food and drink firms to succeed after Brexit.

Confirmed speakers include: Adam Buckley, Premier Foods international sales director; Ed Wright, Cranswick export director; Richard Clothier, Wyke Farms md; and Michael Bell, Northern Ireland Food & Drink executive director.

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