UK food and drink exports at highest level since Brexit

It’s good to see UK food and drink exports at its highest level since the UK left the EU; monthly exports to the EU are up 153 per cent, from 392m in January to 992m in June. The direction of travel looks good; however, exports to the EU have slowed by five per cent when compared to last month - highlighting the acute impact the ‘pingdemic’ and supply chain disruption has had on output. 

Exporting further afield is a real opportunity

At the half year point, the international market that is demonstrating the strongest signs of growth is Latin America. Exports to Latin America and the Caribbean in the first half of 2021 are up by around 70 per cent on the first half of 2020 and this is being driven by exports of whisky, particularly to Brazil and Panama. However, many other international markets are demonstrating growth opportunities too.  Increasing exports primarily to Russia has resulted in export levels to Eastern Europe (excluding the EU) increasing by 34 per cent for the first six months of the year. Meanwhile exports to Asia and Oceania are up by 18 per cent too. All of this indicates that there is an increasing appetite for UK food and drink from international markets beyond just the EU and that there is a real opportunity for the sector to develop further international relationships in the next few years. 

What next?

The food and drink industry employs a high percentage of EU nationals and now, labour shortages caused by both Brexit and the pandemic have the potential to hamper the sector’s performance at a crucial time. Food and drink businesses need to ensure they are making the most of their existing workforce through advanced capacity management and planning techniques to support and empower their staff.

In addition, now is the time to invest in technology, automation and capital expenditure to respond to the ‘new normal’ whilst improving productivity. It will be interesting to see whether the Government’s 130 per cent ‘super-deduction’ for capital spending encourages more businesses to invest post-Covid.