Food and drink exports from the UK have plummeted due to a sharp drop in trade with the EU after Brexit, according to fresh research published today.
Data from the Food and Drink Federation shows overall UK exports of food and drink slid £2bn in the first half of this year, primarily the result of a more than a quarter contraction of sales to the EU compared to the first six months of 2019.
Friction in normal trading operations due to the Covid crisis, compounded with the two blocs struggling to adjust to the logistics of the new relationship between London and Brussels, drove exports down sharply.
Meanwhile, the FDF cited labour shortages and logistics disruption throughout the UK’s “farm-to-fork” supply chain as causing supermarket shelves to lay empty.
The FDF’s research did reveal a bright spot, however. Exports to non-EU markets have doubled since the first half of 2020, indicating overall exports could trend toward pre-Brexit levels in the long run. Imports from these countries also rose over the period.
Exports to South American countries were particularly robust, with sales to Colombia, Brazil and Chile all soaring more than 85 per cent.
Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the FDF, said: “The return to growth in exports to non-EU markets is welcome news, but it doesn’t make up for the disastrous loss of £2bn in sales to the EU.”
“It clearly demonstrates the serious difficulties manufacturers in our industry continue to face and the urgent need for additional specialist support.”
“At the same time, we are seeing labour shortages across the UK’s farm-to-fork food and drink supply chain, resulting in empty spaces on UK shop shelves, disruptions to deliveries and decreased production. Unless steps are taken to address these issues, the ability of businesses to fulfil vital export orders will be impacted.”
Most notably, food and drink exports to Ireland fell £0.5bn in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019.