Export crate

Demand is up for UK food and drink exports

Exports of food and drink from the UK grew 10.5% in 2016 to break through the £20bn barrier for the first time, with demand outside Europe outstripping that from the EU.

The new figures from the FDF show China was the fastest growing market, with sales up more than 50% year on year, with the US seeing exports from the UK booming 13%.

The figures come even before the full impact of the weak pound, which is expected to see exports grow faster.

However, the federation warned that the weak exchange rate was hitting imports by making essential commodities more expensive.

And despite the figures showing non-European exports growing fastest, the EU still accounted for more than 70% of all exports of food and drink, excluding alcohol.

The figures showed exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drink had the biggest increase, up 11.5% to £5.2bn in 2016.

Demand was up in every single one of the UK’s top 20 markets in 2016, with China the fastest growing market, up 51.1% on 2015 to £439.5m.

Excluding alcohol, the UK’s three top three export categories remain chocolate, salmon and cheese, with exports of salmon up 16.4%, driven by large increases to France, up 32.2%, Ireland, up 24.6%, and Germany up 98.9%.

The impact of falling sterling, said the FDF, was likely to be reflected in the next figures for the first half of 2017, which would show the result of negotiations with overseas buyers.

“British food and drink exports have hit a record high yet there is still massive untapped potential. More specialist support for new and existing exporters, with fiscal incentives and financial assistance, would get more of the country’s 6,500+ food and drink producers exporting,” said FDF director general Ian Wright.

“Our target is to grow branded exports by a third by 2020 to more than £6bn.”

Wright urged the government to provide greater support to help boost exports further.

“Competing nations such as France, Germany and Italy offer greater support for training, help with startup costs, with showcasing opportunities at international tradeshow platforms to build their band of exporters,” added Wright. “Building on the International Action Plan, we are working with government and the Food & Drink Exporters Association to help businesses in this sector compete abroad and meet rising demand for British produce.”