Ian Wright

’Brexit presents an opportunity to sell more of our fantastic food overseas,’ said FDF director general Ian Wright

Failure to maintain EU-negotiated trade agreements with countries outside Europe could put more than £2bn in exports at risk, according to a new report by the FDF.

The latest export figures from the body show full-year exports of food and drink were worth over £22bn in 2017, up 9.7% on 2016.

The UK is currently exporting £2.3bn of food and drink to about 60 countries with preferential trade agreements, secured through membership of the EU.

The figure represents more than 10% of total food and drink exports. The top five non-EU export destinations for UK food and drink are Canada, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico and Norway.

While sales of branded food and drink to non-EU markets grew faster than those to the EU, rising by 16.6% versus 9.9% in 2017, the FDF said the figures showed the extent to which the EU negotiated deals with global countries propped up UK exports.

“These figures illustrate the continued strength of the UK food and drink industry and the global demand for our high-quality products,” said FDF director general Ian Wright.

“Brexit presents an opportunity to sell more of our fantastic food overseas, but in order to do that we must ensure that we have appropriate access to our largest trading partners in place once we’ve left the EU.”

The report also showed that despite the faster rise in exports to non-EU countries, exports to Europe still represented 60.2% of total food and drink exports, worth £13.3bn.

Today’s report follows a warning by the BRC in December that the loss of zero or low-tariff deals on imports negotiated with third countries as part of EU membership could hit retailers with higher tariffs and lead to sharp food price rises in stores.