UK food and drink exports to the EU were down by more than 40% in February year-on-year, according to trade body The Food and Drink Federation.

Data released today by the organisation reveals the UK’s dairy and meat sectors were worst impacted, with sales of milk and cream to the EU down 96%, and chicken and beef down by more than three quarters.

The figures back up anecdotal evidence from food manufacturers their exports to the EU have been adversely impacted by the introduction of new processes, including border checks, and additional paperwork following the UK’s departure from the bloc at the end of 2020.

Data released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month showed exports of food and live animals to the EU increased by 77.4% to GBP700m in February, when compared to January.

Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at FDF, said: "While UK food and drink exports to the EU have improved from a 76% fall in January, they are still down nearly 41% in February 2021. Exports to our biggest market, Ireland, have also dropped more than two thirds.

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"UK businesses continue to struggle with inconsistent and incorrect demands at EU borders and small businesses have been hardest hit due to the collapse of groupage distribution into the EU."

The organisation warned that further problems could also be on the horizon.

"New EU import requirements for composite products entered into force this week, adding even greater complexity, cost and uncertainty for UK exporters," it said.

The FDF also recorded a 17% decline in imports into the UK from the EU in February compared to February 2020. However, at the same time, imports from the rest of the world increased by nearly 6%.