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Gin exports hit by ‘time-consuming, complex' logistical Brexit difficulties

Published:  23 March, 2021

UK gin exports dropped by £100m in 2020 to £572m, according to new HMRC data.

The data also revealed a 25% decline in exports to the EU, which The Gin Guild has pinpointed as a “key element” in the loss.

The latest export data reflected the adverse effects of the pandemic on the hospitality industry, said Nicholas Cook, director general, The Gin Guild, adding this had “removed a material part” of the market for gin brands.  

“Gin distillers are a resilient bunch and in the early days of the pandemic, many rallied round to help produce vital supplies of hand sanitiser at a critical time of shortages,” he said.   

However, he added, it was “quite clear” that the “promised so-called frictionless trade agreement was nothing of the case", with companies exporting and importing to Europe, and to and from Northern Ireland, all reporting "time-consuming, complex logistical difficulties," he said.   

“Hopefully exports of gin to Europe will remain high, and we will not look back on 2019 as the peak of the gin renaissance and rue the entirely unnecessary and predictable loss of easy access to this major market."  

Echoing this, James Hayman of Hayman’s of London, added: “Despite much pre-Brexit planning and training, shipments to the EU are still very problematic, with the majority of those by road on hold. All the solutions available are very difficult and carry costs that we were not previously made aware of.  

The gin renaissance of the last decade has in part been driven by the demand from Europe, so to have these challenges was “a concern for the whole British gin industry in a very competitive global gin market”, said Hayman. 

Moreover, The Gin Guild said that although its members believed perseverance would enable some issues to be overcome, they had said the government mantra that teething troubles would be resolved in a matter of weeks had not been the reality. 

As reported by Harpers in October, the overall UK spirits industry took a hit in the first half of 2020 as the pandemic took a firm hold across the globe, with worldwide exports totalling £2.3bn from January to July – a 28% drop compared to the first half of 2019.

However, while the pandemic has impacted exports, Covid-19 has failed to halt the UK’s distillery boom with figures released last month showing a record number of distilleries were registered in 2020.