UK food and drink exports to the EU have plunged £2bn since 2019 due to the impacts of the pandemic and new Brexit trading arrangements.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reported on Thursday that overall industry exports were down by 4.5 percent in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2020.
The FDF said the new barriers to trade resulting from the new trading arrangements were the main causes of driving the sharp drop in sales to the EU.
Exports to nearly all EU member states have fallen significantly, including a loss of more than £0.5bn in sales to Ireland (a drop of 27.1 percent), while sales to Germany, Spain and Italy are each down around 50 percent since 2019.
However, sales of UK food and drink to non-EU countries were up by 13 percent compared to the same six months last year. This surge was driven by a return to growth in China, Singapore, Australia, Japan and the Gulf Region.
Meanwhile, hit by the new trading restrictions, overall UK imports of food and drink from EU were down more than 10 percent in the first half of 2021 compared to pre-OVID levels, while imports from non-EU markets were at the rising shift during this period. According to the FDF, imports from the EU are likely to deteriorate further in 2022 after the UK’s full border controls are in place.
Dominic Goudie, FDF's head of international trade, 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 manufactures in our industry continue to face and the urgent need for additional specialist support,” Goudie said, adding that “at the same time, we are seeing labor 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.”
In the recent weeks, over a quarter of food and hospitality businesses in the UK have been impacted by stock shortages, with shoppers being told to expect higher prices as the country’s supply chain crisis gets worse.