UK food and drink exports to Europe were down markedly in the first quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels, research shows.
Figures released by the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) showed exports to Europe were GBP3bn (US$3.77bn) in the first quarter of 2022, up 45% year-on-year but down 17.3% when compared to the opening three months of 2019. The UK left the EU in January 2020.
The large increase over last year’s figure is, says the FDF, due to a “sharp drop” in sales in the first quarter of 2021 due to stockpiling and the “need of businesses to adapt to new trading requirements with the EU”.
But the longer-term decline in trading with the bloc – by far the UK’s largest trading partner – remains an area of concern.
The FDF said: “A key priority for our sector remains improving the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement.”
How well do you really know your competitors?
Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.
Your download email will arrive shortly
Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample
We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below formBy GlobalData
More positive is the overall export figure of GBP5.3bn, up 30.8% year-on-year in the first quarter, with shipments of items such as fish and bakery ingredients to Canada and India helping drive exports to non-EU countries. Shipments to Canada rose by more than a quarter compared to the pre-pandemic period while shipments to India rose by more than a fifth.
The FDF’s figures also revealed exports to the US, Australia, Japan and the UAE were also higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Overall, total exports were down 7% in the opening three months of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2019.
Dominic Goudie, the FDF’s head of international trade, said: “Trade plays a key role in boosting the UK economy, with high exports ensuring food and drink companies can thrive and imports offering shoppers in the UK a wide range of quality products at prices they can afford.
“This is particularly important now, at a time of soaring costs to businesses and consumers, that the UK utilises trade as a deflationary weapon.”
Food and drink imports were more than 13% higher in the first quarter than in the corresponding period of 2019.
However, the FDF added a note of caution. “One unknown remains the impact of the war in Ukraine, where we are seeing energy prices rise and supplies of certain key ingredients – including vegetable oils, cereals and white fish – being strained, all of which are vital for many of our importers.”