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UK food and drink exports boosted by whisky

Food and drink exports from the UK saw record growth in the first quarter of 2019, once again bolstered by whisky – the nation’s most valuable export.

Whisky remains by far the UK’s most significant export

According to figures released by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), food and drink exports from the UK grew by 10.7% to £5.8 billion (US$7.3bn), almost twice the growth rate of Q1 2018.

Exports of food and drink grew 12.2% to non-EU markets, outperforming growth to EU markets (+9.9%).

The UK’s top three export destinations were Ireland, France and the US, while Hong Kong (-18%), Singapore (-8.3%) and the United Arab Emirates (-8.9%) all registered declines compared to 2018.

Growth of more than 20% was recorded in six of the UK’s top 20 food and drink export markets, with Japan recording the highest growth rate at 52.5%.

Saudi Arabia was a new entry to the UK’s top 20 markets, with sales growing by 198% from Q1 2009 to Q1 2019.

Exports of all of the top 10 products increased by value in Q1 2019.

While salmon witnessed the strongest growth by value at 40.9%, it wasn’t enough to overtake whisky, which remained by far the UK’s most significant export. It increased 19.2% by value and up 15.8% by volume.

Salmon is the second most exported UK product, while chocolate is the third.

Beer experienced the largest increase in terms of volume exports, up 51.6%. Wine – the fifth most exported product from the UK – increased value exports by 8.6%.

Gin, which was the sixth most exported product from the UK, grew 29.6% in value and 19.5% in volume.

Following feedback from businesses at trade shows, the FDF said that “key buyers in some of the top 20 markets are no longer willing to buy from UK exporters due to ongoing Brexit uncertainty”. The FDF added that Brexit could have a “significant impact” on food and drink export figures later in 2019.

The FDF has also identified five target markets – China, the Gulf region, the US, Japan, and India – which offer “significant growth potential” for UK food and drink.

 Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of FDF, said: “The food and drink industry continues to outperform expectations, delivering another quarter of exceptional exports growth despite the damaging uncertainty with which businesses have to contend.

“The rapid growth to Saudi Arabia, a key target market in FDF’s food and drink sector deal proposals, is just one example of this strength.

“With the right support in place our industry could deliver so much more. We urge government to co-invest in our sector deal proposals and help us to provide the support our industry urgently needs to further enhance this growth.”

Table courtesy of the FDF

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