Slowdown for UK food exports as EU uncertainty bites

Agri-food mission to boost Irish exports in Japan and Korea
Credit: Alex Kolokythas Photography

There’s been a slow down in food and drinks exports from the UK, according to analysis from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

From January to December 2018, UK food and drinks exports only increased by 2.5% compared to the 9.7% witnessed in the same period in 2017.

This slower growth was seen in both exports to EU markets – up 4.3% in 2018 compared to 10.3% in 2017 – and non-EU markets – down 0.3% in 2018 compared to 8.9% in 2017.

Growth of exports of branded goods also fell, down 0.1% when compared to the previous year. The growth was up 5% to EU markets, but down 10.2% to non-EU markets.

Seven of the top 20 markets for UK food and drink exports saw a fall in value, including the US and France which fell by 2.2% and 3.4% respectively.

Exports of salmon and beer fell by 11.6% and 7.0% by value, while the other products among the top 10 exports grew over the period.

FDF said the fall in growth, for both overall exports and exports of branded goods, highlights the need for specialist export support to deliver ambitious long-term export targets, whether food and drink manufacturers are looking to export for the first time, enter new markets, or expand their existing markets.

As part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Activity, FDF is in formal negotiations with Government on a Food and Drink Sector Deal. This follows the submission of a proposal which included measures such as support for market research, in-market support, and an export portal.

Additionally, the lower growth is reflective of the results of FDF’s recently published ‘Food & Drink Business Confidence Report 2018’ which showed that in Q4 2018, decreased export profitability was a concern for 30% of members.

Looking forward to 2019, 42% of respondents expect exports to decrease and 46% expect them to remain the same.

“In defiance of the uncertainty caused by UK exit from the EU, UK food and drink exports continued to grow through 2018,” said FDF Chief Executive Ian Wright.

“It is still unclear what this week will hold for our resilient industry, but regardless, we are working with Government to negotiate a Food and Drink Sector Deal to support those companies that are or want to export our high-quality products around the world.”