UK food and drink sector shrugs off Brexit worries
The UK’s food and drink production industry has continued to shrug off the Brexit woes afflicting other manufacturing sectors, with employment at its highest in fifteen years, according to new analysis of the latest data.
However, the analysis also showed that the European Union continued to be the industry’s biggest export market, leaving it vulnerable should trade become more difficult after Brexit.
Food and drink production made up 16 per cent of the manufacturing sector in 2018, according to industry body Make UK and Santander, an increase of 7.6 per cent in two years which made it the largest component of manufacturing output.
Employment rose 5.3 per cent between 2016 and 2018 to 444,000, Make UK’s analysis showed, the highest since 2004.
The EU remained the total biggest market for exports – with UK firms sending 61 per cent of all exports there, in transactions worth £13.9bn. The UK also imports twice as much food and drink as it exports, predominantly from the EU.
Make UK chief economist Seamus Nevin said the strong economic ties with the EU mean “it is vital that frictionless trade continues in any post Brexit agreement if the remarkable growth pattern of the sector is to be maintained”.
Andrew Williams, head of food and drink at Santander UK, said: “Today’s data gives food for thought on the importance of this sector to the UK economy which, despite uncertainties in the UK and internationally, has remained resilient.”
Nevin said the simple fact that people must keep eating and drinking means “the sector seems to be shielded from the difficulties experienced elsewhere and is driving hard for growth in the UK and overseas”.