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UK gin exports stymied by Brexit and Covid-19

Published:  15 February, 2022

Exports of British gin have fallen for the second year running, according to the latest HMRC figures released yesterday.

Attributing the decline to a combination of pandemic disruption and Brexit, the HMRC data for 2021 shows that the total value of UK gin exports fell by more than £30m to £541.5m last year – following on from a £100m drop in 2020.

Exports to the EU have fallen by more than a quarter since 2019, totalling approximately £228m last year – £88.5m lower than the 2019 figure.

There is, however, growth in some markets with increased export sales to Latin America and non-EU countries in Europe.

Nicholas Cook, director general of The Gin Guild, commented: “The latest export data reflects the significant effects of the pandemic and Brexit on the gin industry. Gin distillers have faced a greatly reduced demand from the hospitality industry, which is only now beginning to recover from a year of closures and restrictions.”

He added: “Distillers have also faced the increased logistical difficulties in exporting to the EU – and, indeed, have faced the same issues in importing key materials including bottles and botanicals – plus issues securing and maintaining staffing levels given the exodus of many EU nationals. Brexit has also started to impact through the creeping divergence of the spirit regulations between the EU and the UK, excluding Northern Ireland.”

Cook reported that exports to the US – the UK’s largest overseas market for gin – have also fallen by nearly £50m, attributing the decline to hospitality closures.

“However, gin distillers continue to innovate, creating new flavour profiles and boosting online sales, while the growth in new, small distilleries around the UK continues,” Cook said.

According to the Independent, there are now more than 800 gin distilleries in the UK, although the vast majority are micro-distilleries employing less than ten people.

The popular annual trade seminar, Ginposium, is being held as a live event this year, after two years of virtual, pre-recorded events. Due to take place at the RSA in London on 10 June, guests include trade professionals from Australia, the Philippines and the Falkland Islands.