Food and drink exports soar by 11 per cent

Food and non-alcoholic drink exports rose to over £12 billion (€14bn) last year, according to new figures.

The previous year’s results (2010) proved a landmark for the industry when figures broke through the £10 billion (€12bn) barrier, but the 2011 results show performance is up by 11.4 per cent on 2010.

Export growth has been fuelled by strong performance in new and emerging markets, including Eastern Europe and the Far East. China entered the top 20 export destinations for the first time, with a 55 per cent increase on 2010, partly due to changing tastes and an increasingly westernised diet. South Korea increased by 37 per cent and Hong Kong by 41 per cet. Established non EU markets also performed well, with exports to the US rising by 25 per cent between 2010-2011. The non-EU share of the total figure was 23 per cent compared to 77 per cent for the EU.

The UK’s traditional EU customers also remained loyal, with Ireland remaining the top export destination closely followed by France and the Netherlands. Dutch interest in UK products increased with a 30 per increase, echoed by Belgium (29.9 per cent) and Germany (15 per cent).

Interesting percentage rises were recorded in many key product sectors too. The highest percentage rises in food were seen in fish fillets (32 per cent); beef (32 per cent); milk and cream (20 per cent); lamb (20 per cent) and cheese (18 per cent). Prepared foods (including prepared meat; sweet biscuits and soft drinks) all exhibited double digit growth and the export of chocolate, the UK’s biggest value added product, grew by 16 per cent. Some sectors have reversed previous declines, including breakfast cereals, as companies have broadened their export activity to non EU-customers.

Exports are of key importance in the food and drink manufacturing industry’s drive for growth. The sector has proved resilient during the recession, bucking the general downward trend in manufacturing industries. An exports action plan was recently launched, a joint initiative between industry and Government to work together to increase export potential and remove barriers.

“While the domestic market is growing at a steady rate, we are seeing very strong performance from food and drink exports,” says
FDF director general Melanie Leech. “There remains considerable interest in British heritage brands and our health and wellbeing innovation. Companies understand the importance of developing new markets, competing successfully in many cases against other experienced exporters in France, Germany and Spain.”

Adds food and farming minister Jim Paice: “Our food industry should be congratulated for its continued success. It’s a vital part of the British economy and can play a key part in the UK’s economic recovery.”

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