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Brexit and Covid impact

Food and drinks firms lose £2bn in export sales

Cheese salmon and whisky

Cheese exports fell, but salmon and whisky rose

Disruption caused by Brexit and the pandemic cost Britain’s food and drinks firms more than £2 billion in lost sales in the first half of the year.

While exports to non-EU countries have rocketed by 13%, they have been unable to offset a 16% decline in sales to the EU, according to figures released by the Food and Drink Federation.

Beef and cheese were the worst hit, with export sales down 37% and 34% respectively compared to the same six months in 2019, the last normal trading year.  

However, sales of salmon to the EU have risen by 13% compared to 2019 and by 27% compared to last year.

Whisky is down 12% compared to two years ago, but is up 20% on last year. 


Non-EU exports were driven by a return to growth in China, Singapore, Australia, Japan and the Gulf region. It means non-EU exports are now almost back to pre-Covid levels.

But the overall decline in exports reflected the dual impact of Covid and the red tape associated with Brexit, said the FDF.

“The return to growth in exports to non-EU markets is welcome news, but it doesn’t make up for the disastrous loss of £2billion in sales to the EU,” said Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the FDF.

“It clearly demonstrates the serious difficulties manufacturers in our industry continue to face and the urgent need for additional specialist support.

“At the same time, we are seeing labour shortages across the UK’s farm-to-fork food and drink supply chain, resulting in empty spaces on UK shop shelves, disruptions to deliveries and decreased production.

“Unless steps are taken to address these issues, the ability of businesses to fulfil vital export orders will be impacted.”

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