The coronavirus pandemic has hit food and drink exports hard with a £700 million drop in value compared to 2019, equating to a 12.7% fall.
That’s according to the Food and Drink Federation who noted whisky, chocolate, cheese, salmon and gin as the hardest hit, pulling back on increasing demand over the last five years for British whisky, gin and salmon in particular.
However, pork saw an increase in value whilst the volume of vegetable and beef exports also rose.
Sales to the EU were the most impacted with total value falling by 17.4%, driven primarily by the immediate impact of Covid-19 as hospitality and travel sectors shut down across the continent.
But further afield, the picture is a little rosier. Outside the EU, demand has remained resilient with sales of branded food and drink products increasing in the US, Australia and China. Demand for cakes and baked goods in Australia grew 12% compared to the same period last year whilst the exports of gin, bottled water and infant food grew to £34m in China. Demand for British beer and soft drinks spearheaded near-7% overall export growth to the US too.
Head of International Trade at the FDF, Dominic Goudie, commented that: “Manufacturers and the other hidden heroes working across the supply chain have ensured continued access to essential food and drink for UK shoppers during this crisis. But we can now see how COVID-19 has impacted valuable overseas sales of UK food and drink that were worth over £23 billion in 2019.
“The closure of the hospitality sector in high-value export markets in the EU and further afield has been devastating for many exporters. However, we can also see that opportunities do remain in retail channels in many markets.
“Ensuring a quick return to growth will be essential to support resilience in our industry and also the UK’s economic recovery. We are working closely with Government and industry partners to set out a recovery plan that will deliver a return to sustainable export growth right across the UK.”