Food and drink exports across the UK are recovering from the challenges of the pandemic with manufacturers taking advantage of new trading relationships across the world, according to research by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
The FDF’s UK Food and Drink Exports report reveals the latest breakdown of food and drink exports from across the UK during 2021.
The report shows that Scotland, Wales, the West Midlands and the North East of England had the strongest export growth, reflecting encouraging recovery from the supply chain problems caused by COVID and that businesses are adapting to the new UK-EU trading relationship. An important sign that the food and drink industry can play a vital role in levelling up the country.
Key findings from the report include:
- Scotland accounts for the largest share of UK food and drink exports, with almost 30% of total exports. This was worth £5.7bn, up 14.6% since 2020.
- Wales is the only UK nation to exceed pre-COVID export levels. This was driven by strong exports of cereals, up 173% since 2020, and now worth nearly £140m to the economy.
- The North East saw the largest increase reaching £280m – a 20.4% increase from 2020 – while the West Midlands grew by £810m, a 12.6% rise from two years ago.
The share of exports to non-EU markets is increasing, with a strong growth in London, as companies take advantage of the opportunities to grow exports through the UK Government’s new global trade deals. However, more can be done to improve the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement, to help companies recover exports in the EU alongside growing market share in other global markets.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not factored into this report, and we’re yet to understand its full impact on our sector’s exports and on the global supply chains on which our sector relies for some ingredients, such as vegetable oils, cereals and white fish.
The Food and Drink Federation’s Chief Executive Karen Betts said: “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. Every product we export is rooted in our culture and our communities, and it’s great to see that our food and drink is sought out by consumers all over the world.
“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.”
Food and Drink Federation Scotland’s Chief Executive Officer, David Thomson, said: “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.
“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 in different markets will further increase sales of Scotland’s food and drink abroad.
“We will continue to work with Scottish and UK governments and partners from across the food chain to support the recovery and growth of our vital industry.”
The FDF Cymru’s Chief Executive Pete Robertson said: “From cereals to coffee and ham to honey, we are proud that produce from Welsh food and drink companies is now a much sought after good around the world.
“With more opportunities to export expected in the near future, Welsh food manufacturers are leading the way in putting the UK on the map while providing vital jobs for local people at the heart of our communities.”