UK food and drink exports to the European Union (EU) almost halved during the first three months of 2021, compared to the same period last year, due to post-Brexit trade barriers and pandemic impacts.
Figures published by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) revealed that EU sales declined by 47%, which it claims was largely due to changes in the UK’s trading relationship with the EU, but also ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, exports to the EU fell by £2 billion compared with the first quarter of 2019. In March, the FDF revealed that year-on-year food and drink exports to the EU fell 75.5% – a drop of nearly £0.75 billion.
For the first time since the FDF began reporting, exports to non-EU markets exceeded sales to countries in the EU, accounting for 55% of all UK food and drink exports.
The trade body also revealed that the Republic of Ireland – traditionally the sector’s biggest export market – was most impacted, with exports down by 71% to £281 million, compared to £961 million at the same time last year. Sales to Germany, Spain and Italy fell by more than half.
However, the first quarter witnessed a return to strong growth in exports to East Asia, with high demand for quality UK food and drink particularly in China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.
All ten of the UK’s top food and drink product categories exported to the EU fell significantly between 2019 and 2021. Whisky declined 32.3%, while chocolate exports fell by 36.9%, and lamb and mutton by 14.3%.
Dairy products were the most severely impacted as exports of milk and cream to the EU plummeted by more than 90%, and exports of cheese declined by two thirds, in comparison to 2020.
Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the FDF, said: “The loss of £2 billion of exports to the EU is a disaster for our industry, and is a very clear indication of the scale of losses that UK manufacturers face in the longer-term due to new trade barriers with the EU.
“We set out a plan to mitigate these impacts by boosting support for exporters, and this was backed by the Trade and Agriculture Commission. The government must stop prevaricating and get behind these proposals to help exporters that have been shut out of trading with the EU.”
John Whitehead, director of Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), said: “Whilst some of this large drop can be put down to end of year stockpiling, significant business has been lost as a direct result of the additional bureaucracy, customs delays and costs of trading with the EU.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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