UK Food Exports Set to Increase In 2018

Weak Pound Leads to Surge in UK Sales

Brexit uncertainty has led to plenty of bad news stories, but for the UK’s food exporters, the past year has been one of growth and success.

When the pound hit record lows following the EU referendum, there were general feelings of gloom regarding the UK economy and its hopes of dragging itself out of recession. However, for every loser there is always a winner, and the state of the pound is just one factor that has led to a bumper year for UK food exporters.

With the majority of sales going to countries within the EU, the increased exports have also made it one of the busiest years for support industries such as the road freight sector. Let’s take a look in a little more detail.

Leaping salmon sales

It seems the world cannot get enough salmon. Once seen as a luxury item, its health and nutritional properties are making it more of a staple across Europe and the wider world. And for the UK’s salmon industry, the timing could not have been better.

Scottish salmon has a global reputation, but an industry-wide lice infestation problem has led to depleted stocks, meaning supply is struggling to match demand and prices have been pushed up worldwide. The slump in the value of the pound, however, has meant that premium Scottish salmon has been able to compete on level terms with traditionally cheaper alternatives from countries like Norway and Chile. And as a consequence, exports have gone through the roof, increasing by 13 percent in volume and an amazing 50 percent in value. Overall, the international food industry is growing.

Alcohol sales on the increase

Of course, there is one Scottish product that is even more famous than salmon on the export market, and that is whisky. It remains the top UK export in the food and drink sector, with sales of almost £900 million in the first quarter of 2017.

While the global market for Scotch whisky comes as no surprise, the surge in popularity for British wine is certain to raise some eyebrows. In the same period, sales by volume shot up by almost 14 percent, making it the largest growth sector in UK food and drink exports.

Beer and gin also feature in the UK’s top eight, with chocolate and cheese taking up the other two places.

Growing non-EU sales

While the majority of exports are shipped to countries within the UK and are sent by road, sales to non-EU markets are actually growing at an even faster pace, 9.4 percent compared with 7.4 percent. This is largely down to a huge increase of sales to South Korea, driven predominantly by the nation’s new-found love of British beer.

However, it is important to remember that while these non-EU markets are important, the vast majority of exports continue to be to closer neighbours in France, Germany, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Elsa Fairbanks is the director of the Food and Drink Exporters Association, and she told the BBC that maintaining access to EU markets will be essential in post Brexit Britain. She said: “Although we recognise the need to explore new opportunities, leaving the EU should not mean ignoring those we already have.”

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