The value of exports of all UK food and drink grew to a record £4.9 billion in the first quarter of 2017 — driven by whisky and salmon — according to the the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
The overall value of UK exports was up 8.3% on the first quarter of 2016.
The UK’s top export product by some distance — with a value of £895.9 million — was whisky, with salmon in second place at £186.7 million.
Exports of salmon saw the largest value growth, up 52.3%.
While the fall in the British pound helped boost UK export competitiveness, the currency weakness also led to an increase in the cost of many essential imported ingredients and raw materials, the FDF said.
This resulted in the UK’s food and drink trade deficit increasing by 19% to -£6.2 billion in Q1 2017.
Ian Wright, director general, FDF, said: “The growth of food and alcoholic drink exports we’ve seen in Q1 is very encouraging news for our industry.
“We want to work with government to take advantage of increased demand for UK products overseas and the opportunities that leaving the EU is expected to create.
“We would encourage the new government to look to Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) as inspiration in creating an organisation to help turbocharge sales of UK food and drink globally.
“It is also very pleasing to see non-EU exports performing beyond expectations.
“As the UK leaves the EU growth in exports is hugely important to our sector.
“We hope that with the determination of businesses and the assistance of the new Government, we can open more channels and provide a further boost to the UK’s competitiveness on the world market.”
Elsa Fairbanks, director, Food and Drink Exporters Association, said: “FDEA welcomes these good food and drink export figures.
“We would like to see government further encourage exporting by ensuring producers have the skills and support to enter new, challenging markets post-Brexit.
“We must not ignore the importance of existing and very strong EU markets which still represent 65% of food and drink exports and this must be a priority as Brexit negotiations start.
“Ease of access to EU markets will continue to be vital to our industry in future as many food and drink products are not suited to export to distant markets.
“Although we recognise the need to explore new opportunities, leaving the EU should not mean ignoring those we already have.”
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