Exports of UK food and non-alcoholic drinks rose 12.1% in the last quarter, with the strongest growth in non-EU markets.
Statistics released by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) show sales to non-EU countries grew at twice the rate of sales to EU destinations compared with the same quarter last year.
FDF attributes the growth in exports to the devaluation of the pound. “It is very pleasing to see non-EU exports performing beyond expectations, with UK firms taking advantage of increased competitiveness following the currency changes since the summer,” said Ian Wright, director general of FDF.
As the UK leaves the EU, growth in exports will be hugely important to the sector, he added.
The overall value of both branded and non-branded food and non-alcoholic drinks exports was £3.4bn in the third quarter, a rise of 12.1% on the same quarter last year. Branded products alone increased 13.7%. The sector’s exports have been worth £10.1bn so far this year.
The destinations outside the EU with the largest percentage growth on the same quarter last year were Malaysia (167.3%), China (61.7%), Canada (27.9%) Australia (16.8%) and the UAE (7.5%).
However, Malaysia ranked low compared to any of the top five export destinations by value, all European (Ireland, France, Netherlands, Germany and Spain). EU countries accounted for more than 70% of food and non-alcoholic drink exports, and two of the three largest growing markets by value this year to date were also in the EU.
The importance of the European export market should be kept in mind during the Brexit process, said Elsa Fairbanks, director of the Food and Drink Exporters Association (FDEA).
“In our experience, EU retail and food service buyers are very positive about the quality and innovation behind UK products and stress to us the importance of maintaining close links going forward,” she said.
The top five food and non-alcoholic drinks products exported this year to date are chocolate (£471.0m), salmon (£402.7m), cheese (£356.0m), wheat (£331.5m), soft drinks (£319.4m) and beef (£317.0m).
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