The first half of 2017 saw exports of all UK food and drink increase to £10.2bn, up 8.5 per cent on the same period in 2016.
This represents the highest first half exports value on record. The UK's top three export products are whisky, salmon and beer.
Although recent reports have suggested that exports to countries located outside of the EU are faring strongest, this research, commissioned by the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), indicates that stronger growth was reported to EU countries (+9 per cent) than non-EU countries. (+7.6 per cent).
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 per cent decrease compared to the first half of 2016 due to a drop in commodity exports such as wheat and barley, while Japan was marginally down by 2 per cent.
South Korea (+77 per cent), China (+35 per cent) and Belgium (+39 per cent) were the export markets that saw the greatest percentage growth in value. The growth in exports to East Asian markets was led by South Korea, which is a nation gaining a taste for British beer, and overall exports hit £156.3 million.
The US is the UK's top non-EU market for exports of branded food and drink, reaching £91.5 million, up from £87.8 million in 2016. Top performing branded goods sold to the US were food preparations, bread, cakes, pastry, puddings and biscuits.
Ian Wright, director general of 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.”
George Eustice, Food Minister said, “These encouraging figures show that the UK’s high quality foods and high standards are sought after around the world.
"We have ambitious plans to produce and export more of our fabulous foods around the world and more businesses are trying exporting for the first time.
Elsa Fairbanks, director of Food & Drink Exporters Association said,“It is pleasing to see exports perform so strongly in the first half of the year, with UK food and drink exporters seeing the largest figures in record. Our core markets in the EU and North America are showing healthy growth and is something we should protect and build on in the months ahead. Asian markets have also seen impressive growth and this is clearly a region we should turn our attention to further as exporters in the future.”