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Figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reveal that exports of branded food and non-alcoholic drink experienced a 16th year of consecutive growth, up 11.5 per cent to £5.2bn.
Excluding alcohol, the UK’s top three exports are chocolate, salmon and cheese, with exports of salmon up 16.4 per cent. This was driven by large increases to France, Ireland and Germany.
The findings also show that the USA is now the second largest export market for the UK and the largest outside Europe, with exports increasing by 13 per cent to £2.2bn in 2016. Demand was up in every single one of the UK’s top 20 markets in 2016, with China proving the fastest growing market, up 51.1 per cent on 2015 to £439.5m.
However the fall in the price of the pound has made essential imports more expensive and the UK’s food and drink trade deficit grew 5.7 per cent to -£22.4bn.
Ian Wright, director general at FDF said, “British food and drink exports have hit a record high yet there is still massive untapped potential. More specialist support for new and existing exporters, with fiscal incentives and financial assistance, would get more of the country’s 6,500+ food and drink producers exporting. Our target is to grow branded exports by a third by 2020 to more than £6bn.
“Competing nations such as France, Germany and Italy offer greater support for training, help with start-up costs and showcasing opportunities at international tradeshow platforms to build their band of exporters. Building on the International Action Plan, we are working with Government and the Food & Drink Exporters Association to help businesses in this sector compete abroad and meet rising demand for British produce.”