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Moving People


  • AFP

Brexit hits UK food and drink exports to EU

British food and drink exports in the first six months of 2021 were down by nearly 20 per cent from pre-pandemic levels, due to a slump in shipments to the European Union, industry data showed on Thursday.

In the period from January to June, Britain exported a total £9.2 billion worth of food and drink globally, the Food and Drink Federation calculated in a statement.

That compared with £9.6 billion in the first half of 2020 and £11.1 billion in the first six months of 2019, representing a cumulative drop of nearly £2.0 billion or 17 per cent, FDF said.

The shortfall was largely attributable to a slump in exports to the EU, which could not be offset by higher food and exports to non-EU countries, particularly Asia and South America, the federation said.

Britain left the EU single market and customs union on January 1, creating new bureaucratic barriers for its exporters already grappling with pandemic-related issues.

Food and exports to the 27-nation bloc amounted to £4.9 billion in the period from January to June this year, down from £5.9 billion from the first half of 2020 and £6.7 billion in the first six months of 2019, the FDF data showed.

By contrast, exports to non-EU countries were up 13 per cent year-on-year in the first six months of this year.

The development “clearly demonstrates the serious difficulties manufacturers in our industry continue to face and the urgent need for additional specialist support,” said the federation’s head of international trade, Dominic Goudie.

Pointing to recent labour shortages seen across the UK’s food and drink supply chain that have left shelves in some supermarkets empty, Goudie said that “unless steps are taken to address these issues, the ability of businesses to fulfil vital export orders will be impacted.”

Data from the Office for National Statistics published in mid-August showed that exports of overall goods to the EU, excluding precious metals, were higher in May and June than their pre-Brexit level, suggesting businesses are adapting to the new post-Brexit trading regimes, observers said.

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