Food exporters in Scotland, Wales and the north east of England have had the strongest receovery from the Covid pandemic, according to figures released today.

The FDF said while exports had not yet returned to pre-Covid levels, apart from in Wales, companies were beginning to recover and were starting to take advantage of new trading arrangements with non-EU countries.

Scotland accounted for the largest share of UK food and drink exports, with almost 30% of total exports, worth £5.7bn – an increase of nearly 15% since 2020.

Wales’ export recovery was driven by strong exports of cereals, up 173% since 2020, and now worth nearly £140m to the economy.

Meanwhile the north east witnessed the biggest increase, reaching £280m – a 20.4% rise from 2020.

However, today’s figures do not take into account the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The FDF warned it had yet to see the full impact on exports and on the global supply chains, with ingredients such as vegetable oils, cereals and white fish all affected.

It also called on the government to do more to help exports, including improving implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement.

“It’s very encouraging to see exports starting to recover across many parts of the UK, with companies starting to pull out of Covid-related disruption and adapting to the UK’s new trading relationships with countries around the world,” said FDF CEO Karen Betts.

“Our report also shows the vital role that food and drink manufacturing plays in every community across the UK’s four nations, and how central our sector is to prosperity at home as well as in driving exports overseas.”

Exports minister Mike Freer said: “It’s brilliant to see food and drink companies from every corner of the UK selling their products to the world, growing our economy and supporting jobs across the country.”

Scotland’s recovery was largely been driven by a strong growth in exports of beverages and seafood products, together accounting for £5.2bn of total Scottish exports. France is now Scotland’s largest export partner, worth more than £1bn, but exports to China nearly doubled in 2021 to just under £225m.

“Scotland continues to punch above its weight – accounting for the largest share of UK food and drink exports – with an impressive 30% of total exports,” added FDF Scotland CEO David Thomson.

“It’s heartening to see an increase in Scotland’s food and drink exports as the industry begins to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit. We hope that new opportunities will help further increase sales of Scotland’s food and drink abroad.”