UK food and drink exports grew to the highest first-half value on record as a weaker pound boosted sales of British salmon, according to new figures.
Exports of all UK food and drink grew 8.5 per cent to £10.2bn in the first half of the year, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reported today.
Whisky and salmon held their top spots on the list and beer exports surpassed chocolate for the number three spot.
Salmon showed the highest growth - exports by volume increased 24 per cent and by value shot up 53.7 per cent to £407.9m - but whisky remained number one, making up around £1.8bn of total exports in the first half.
“The growth of food and alcoholic drink exports is very encouraging. We want to work with government to take advantage of increased demand for UK products overseas and the opportunities that leaving the EU is expected to create," said Ian Wright, director general at the FDF.
However, export growth to EU countries was stronger than to countries outside the EU at nine per cent growth compared with 7.6 per cent, contrary to recent export trends.
“It is great to see such strong growth in our exports to EU member states," Wright said. "The EU remains an essential market for UK exports as well as for supplies of key ingredients and raw materials used by our industry. We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our sector's exports further still."
The top destination for UK food and drink outside the EU in terms of overall value was the US, which was worth £91.5m in food and drink exports in the first half, up from £87.8m in 2016.
Spain and Japan were the only markets in the top 20 that fell across the six months. They were down 17.6 per cent and two per cent, respectively.
South Korea showed the strongest growth over the first half with exports to that market rising 77 per cent, led by British beer.
Although the fall in the pound helped boost UK export competitiveness, the FDF said it also led to an increase in the cost of many essential imported ingredients and raw materials. That means the food and drink trade deficit increased by 16 per cent to -£12.4bn in the first six months of the year.