UK food and drink exports fell 9.7% in 2020

Santander UK and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) have teamed up to launch an industry report which has revealed that that UK food and drink exports in 2020 fell by 9.7% compared to 2019.

Despite the overall decline across the year, as pandemic restrictions eased and many EU businesses stockpiled products before the end of the Brexit transition period, UK exports fell by just 1.7% in Q4 2020. Exports to both EU and non-EU markets fell by 8.0%, and 12.1% respectively.

Pork sales bucked the trend with EU and non-EU markets increasing in volume by 6.2% in 2020, with a total value of £629.7m. Sales of breakfast cereals also increased in volume by 12.6% with the top market being the Republic of Ireland.

Significant growth markets for 2021 and beyond detailed in the report include the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, alongside the UK’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the third largest free-trade bloc in the world by GDP, which would present new opportunities for food and drink exporters if it is approved.

The FDF and Santander UK have welcomed recent initiatives from the Government to help UK exporters, including the creation of four Trade and Investment Hubs by the Department of International Trade (DIT).

However, they believe that more can be done, suggesting that the Government should adopt the export proposals produced and agreed by industry members of the Food and Drink Sector Council that were also backed in the recent report published by the Trade and Agriculture Commission. These include establishing a Food and Drink Export Council to drive UK-wide collaboration, and addressing the critical gap in specialist support for exporters of food and drink that exists in England.

Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that these initiatives are ‘vital’ to help create new jobs and drive the quick return to growth that is essential to strengthen resilience across the industry.

He said: “As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink makes a unique economic and cultural contribution in every region of the UK. Now we look forward to the Government demonstrating its commitment to working in partnership with us to accelerate growth in our sector.”

Andrew Williams, head of food & drink sector at Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking, added: “There is much scope for growth in 2021 and we are proud to support food and drink businesses throughout the UK in making the most of opportunities to expand at home and to export overseas, both to the EU and beyond.”

The report can be found here in full.

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