UK-EU food and drink trade takes a hit

UK food and drink exports to European Union countries in February fell by just over 40%, year-on-year, according to figures compiled by the Food and Drink Federation.

The FDF, which represents food manufacturers throughout the UK, has published its monthly Snapshot for trade in the sector. It shows that, overall, UK food and drink exports were down by around 21%, with the shortfall in UK-EU trade partly offset by an increase of 8.7% in exports to non-EU countries.

Salmon exports to the EU totalled £22.9m in February (down 10.4% on February 2020), while the figure for fish (other than salmon) was £17.6m, down by 31.4%.

In February, milk and cream saw the biggest fall year-on-year (down 96.4%) while cheese (-64.6%), chicken (-79.5%) and beef (-77.6%) also saw disappointing numbers.

Food and drink imports into the UK from the EU in February were also down year-on-year (-17.1%) while imports from non-EU countries were down by less (-5.8%).

Dominic Goudie, Head of International Trade at FDF, said: “While UK food and drink exports to the EU have improved from a 76% fall in January, they are still down nearly 41% in February 2021. Exports to our biggest market, Ireland, have also dropped more than two thirds. UK businesses continue to struggle with inconsistent and incorrect demands at EU borders, and small businesses have been hardest hit due to the collapse of groupage distribution into the EU.

“New EU import requirements for composite products entered into force this week, adding even greater complexity, cost and uncertainty for UK exporters. It is essential that the EU-UK Partnership Council and its Trade Specialised Committees are convened to urgently address problems with the implementation of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement to ensure small businesses are not shut out of trade by this trade deal.”

The end of the Brexit transition period in January saw the imposition of a number of controls on food imports to the EU. The UK government was due to impose its own checks on imported food products in April, but has delayed the requirement for export health certificates for animal-based products coming into the UK until 1 October 2021, while “phytosanitary” checks on imports of plants and vegetables will not come into force until January 2022.

Source: Food and Drink Federation (April 2021)