An FDF report found that exports grew 5.1% to £11.3bn, lower than the 5.7% growth rate recorded in the same period last year. The organisation urged ministers to secure continuity deals for EU preferential trade agreements.
The first quarter of 2019 had racked up growth of 10.7% due to stockpiling in anticipation of the April Brexit deadline, the FDF reported. However, this fell in quarter two thanks to the need for business to sell off these stockpiled goods after the extension to the deadline.
Decline in branded exports
The FDF also reported a 1.6% decline in the value of branded food and drink exports to the EU, while the exports of these goods to non-EU countries grew by up to 10%. As a result, the share of UK branded and non-branded food and drink sold to the EU declined in the first half of 2019.
This was observed most in Ireland, the UK’s biggest export partner, where the value of branded goods fell by 2.5%.
In a bid to mitigate any further losses of export sales, the FDF urged Government ministers to clinch EU preferential trade agreements in preparation for Brexit. These agreements have allowed the UK to trade with 76 countries as a member of the EU and represent 14% of total UK food and drink exports, worth £3.1bn in 2018.
To date, the Government has secured continuity deals for 15 existing EU preferential trade agreements of a total of more than 40.
Losing market access
Chief executive Ian Wright voiced serious concerns that the UK could face the loss of market access to a wide range of EU trade deals in a no-deal Brexit scenario, undermining export performance and access to essential ingredients and raw materials for food production.
“Government must deliver on its promise to ensure there is no loss of access to any of these agreements after the UK leaves the EU,” he added.
“The failure to secure continuity agreements with these markets will place UK manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to EU competitors. That will harm the interests of UK consumers.”
Meanwhile, food and drink businesses in Wales should plan for the 31 October Brexit deadline regardless of whether they export to the EU or not, according to the Welsh government.