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UK Food Exports


  • Food and drink exports increased by 1.8% to £16.4bn from January to September 2018, when compared to the same period in 2017
  • Exports of branded goods grew by £35.2m to £4.3bn, up 0.8%
  • Comparative data indicates slower growth of food and drink exports from England to the rest of the world, compared with exports growth rates from the other three nations of the UK
  • Comparative regional data shows that growth rates of food and drink exports in the North East and East Midlands lag behind England’s other regions

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has today published analysis showing that food and drink exports increased by 1.8% to £16.4bn from January to September 2018, when compared to the same period in 2017. Exports of branded goods grew by £35.2m to £4.3bn, up 0.8%.

The food and drink trade deficit narrowed by 1.3% and it now stands at -£18.0bn, which is £243.0m lower than the same period in 2017. Export growth to EU markets (+4.1%) was positive, while exports to non-EU markets declined (-1.8%), with the EU exports share growing to 62.1%.

All of the top 10 export products reported growth in January to September, apart from beer and salmon. The fall in exports of salmon, down 20.1%, is primarily a result in a fall in sales to France (-19%) and the US (-36.2%). In volume terms, this represents a decline of 16.6 thousand tonnes, which is equivalent to £94.3 million.

National and regional comparison

For the first time, FDF has done a national and regional export comparison across the UK. When looking at the most recent data on food and drink exports from the four nations of the UK, England has shown growth of just 6.2%, compared to the increase of 9.2% seen in Wales. Similarly, FDF analysis of English regions reveals that the East Midlands and North East of England recorded the slowest growth rate for food and drink exports between 2015-2017, growing by just 2.6% and 0.8% respectively. These rates are much lower than leading export regions, with the South East showing growth of 8.4% and London 7.2% during the same period.

The variation in growth across nations and regions indicates that there may be businesses in some parts of the country where export potential remains untapped. As such, to realise this potential and help address fragmentation in UK export growth, FDF submitted a Sector Deal proposal to Government this summer which included export proposals around market research, in-market support, and an export portal which were submitted to Government this summer.

Following this submission, FDF is now in formal negotiations as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy activity to boost specialist export support with an aim of delivering ambitious long-term export targets.

The full exports report, including supporting information about Q3 2018 food and drink exports, and exports reports from previous quarters can be found on our Exports pages here. Supporting case studies can be found here.

Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation, said:

“Despite the tumultuous times, UK food and drink exports continue to grow. These results record a very creditable performance across many product categories and destination markets. However, it is clear that businesses must work ever harder to deliver. Access to high quality market insight, advice and practical support is increasingly vital for success. That’s why the FDF is seeking collaboration with DEFRA, BEIS and DIT. We believe that together we can deliver ambitious new methods of export support which will give us the tools to take on our rivals in the highly competitive global food marketplace.”

Minister of State at the Department for International Trade, Graham Stuart, said:

“UK food and drink is highly-regarded across the world, and I’m delighted that these latest figures from the Food and Drink Federation show such a positive increase in exports. It’s testament to the dedication and commitment to quality of UK businesses.

“We recently launched a new UK Export Strategy to clearly set out government support for businesses as we look to increase exports as a proportion of GDP from 30% to 35%. I would encourage all companies to make the most of this offer which includes finance through UK Export Finance, peer-to-peer support from our network of Export Champions and a wealth of resources on”

Elsa Fairbanks, Director, Food & Drink Exports Association (FDEA), said:

“The FDEA has received positive feedback from members in our recent 2018 Export Survey –  exporters of all sizes from around the UK. Most respondents report continued export growth both in EU and non-EU markets although in the main this comes from more “established” markets.  As the reality of the changing trading environment emerges, there is concern that sales may start to fall in the EU after Brexit and many exporters are exploring opportunities in new areas further afield. In light of this, we fully endorse the need for practical help and support to ensure that companies are prepared for what lies ahead.”


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