Last reviewed 20 September 2021

Sales of UK food and drink to non-EU countries were up 13%, accounting for 46.6% (£4.3 billion) of all UK food and drink exports in the first half of 2021, driven by a return to growth in China, Singapore, Australia, Japan and the Gulf region.

According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), this increase means non-EU exports are now almost back to pre-Covid levels.

In other non-EU markets, including in Central and South America, sales to some countries have doubled since the first half (H1) of 2020.

The fastest growing major export markets in the region were Colombia (+142.6%), Mexico (+111.2%), Chile (+105.4%) and Brazil (+87.2%). This increase has been driven by a recovery in sales of whisky and vegetable oils, the FDF explained, supported by increased demand for other UK products growing rapidly from a much lower baseline.

The Federations’ Head of International Trade Dominic Goudie said that, while it was pleasing to see growth in sales to non-EU countries, this in no way replaces the loss of £2.2 billion sales to the EU since 2019.

“There is growing evidence that the complexity of trading with the EU has led to businesses moving operations into Europe and of importers looking for alternative suppliers, contributing to the ongoing decline in both UK exports and UK jobs”, John Whitehead of the Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA) warned.

The loss of UK exports to the EU contributed to reduced demand for EU ingredients for use in UK manufacturing, while import substitution by UK manufacturers and retailers also had an impact.

Imports from the EU are likely to deteriorate further in 2022, after the UK’s full border controls are in place, the FDF believes.