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FDF reports biggest first quarter on record for UK food and drink exports

Published:  05 June, 2019

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has reported a 10.7% year on year increase in the exports of UK food and drink to £5.8bn for the first quarter of 2019, boosted by strong performances from whisky, gin and wine.

The growth, almost twice the growth rate of exports for the same period in 2018, marks the biggest first quarter sales value on record, said the FDF.

Whisky topped the overall food and drink top 10 table of products, with exports up 19.2% (£183.6m) to £1.1bn on volumes up 15.8%.

In fifth place wine exports, of which the vast majority is imported and re-exported, rose 19.7% (£28.5m) to £173.3m with volumes up 8.6%, while gin exports rose 29.6% (£35.5m) to £155.4m, and volumes by 19.5%.

Overall food and drink export growth to non-EU markets increased 12.2% outpacing growth to EU markets, which increased 9.9%.

Growth of more than 20% was recorded in six of the UK’s top 20 export markets - the Netherlands, China, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia.

However, the FDF warned growth may slow over the rest of 2019 with “foreign buyers signalling they are no longer willing to buy from UK exporters due to ongoing Brexit uncertainty”.

“While Q1 exports have shown positive results, feedback received by the FDF from businesses at recent trade fairs shows that key buyers in some of the top 20 markets are no longer willing to buy from UK exporters due to ongoing Brexit uncertainty. This could have a significant impact on food and drink export figures later in 2019,” it stated.

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

“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.”

For the whole of 2018, food and drink exports increased by only 2.5% to £22.6bn compared to 2017 when exports rose 9.7%.

Bucking the trend, whisky exports rose 7.7% to £4.8bn on volumes up 3%, while gin exports rose 15% o £614.4m, and 11.6% in volume.

Export growth of wine also rose - up 9.8% to £630.4m with volumes up 21.3%.