The UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said whisky, salmon and beer helped exports of all UK food and drink grow 8.5% to a record to £10.2 billion in the first half of 2017.
The FDF said the UK’s top three export products are whisky, salmon and beer.
“Contrary to recent export trends, stronger growth was reported to EU countries (+9.0%) than to countries outside the EU (+7.6%),” said the FDF.
“Ireland, France and the United States are the top three destinations for UK food and drink in terms of overall value.
“Positive growth was reported in all top 20 markets, apart from Spain and Japan.
“Spain saw a 17.6% decrease compared with H1 2016 due to a drop in commodity exports such as wheat and barley, while Japan was marginally down by 2%.”
The FDF said the three export markets that saw the greatest percentage growth in value in H1 were South Korea (+77%), China (+35%), and Belgium (+39%).
The FDF said the US is the UK’s top non-EU market for exports of branded food and drink, reaching £91.5 million in H1 2017, up from £87.8 million in 2016.
While the fall in the value of the pound had helped to boost UK export competitiveness, the currency weakness has also led to an increase in the cost of many essential imported ingredients and raw materials.
This resulted in the UK’s food and drink trade deficit increasing by 16% to -£12.4 billion in H1 2017.
Ian Wright, Director General, FDF, said: “The growth of food and alcoholic drink exports is very encouraging.
“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.
“It is great to see such strong growth in our exports to EU Member States.
“The EU remains an essential market for UK exports as well as for supplies of key ingredients and raw materials used by our industry.
“We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our sector’s exports further still.
“The continuing weakness of sterling is a concern.
“However, we hope that with the determination of businesses and the assistance of Government, we can open more channels and provide a further boost to the UK’s competitiveness on the world market.”