UK food and beverage exports to EU decline by US$1.5 billion as Brexit realities continue to impact trade

UK – In the first few months of 2021, Britain’s exports to the EU were down more than £1.1 billion (US$1.5 billion), according to a new Food and Drink Federation (FDF) report.

For the month of February, The FDF report notes that  F&B exports to the EU were down more than a fifth in February, linked to a fall in sales of 40.9 percent compared to the same period of the previous year.

Exports to UK’s biggest market, Ireland, have also dropped more than two thirds during the period under review, portraying a worsening condition at UK’s border with the EU.

The dairy and meat sectors were worst impacted, with sales of milk and cream to the EU down 96 percent, and chicken and beef down by more than three quarters.

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Meanwhile, imports of pork, chicken and beef were down more than 30 percent compared to February 2020. Fruit and vegetables were also affected, recording declines of 21 percent and 13 percent respectively.

Despite the decline compared to the month of February last year, FDF notes that the February figures have improved from the 76 percent fall in January.

According to Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at FDF, UK  businesses continue to struggle with inconsistent and incorrect demands at EU borders, and small businesses have been hardest hit due to the collapse of groupage distribution into the EU.

“It is essential that the EU-UK Partnership Council and its Trade Specialised Committees are convened to urgently address problems with the implementation of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement to ensure small businesses are not shut out of trade by this trade deal,” Goudie continues.

Goudie further notes that the new EU import requirements for composite products that entered into force this week, are expected to add even greater complexity, cost and uncertainty for UK exporters.

As the UK embarks on its new path as an independent trading nation following the end of the Brexit transition period, market researchers note that significant growth opportunities remain for UK food and drink exporters, both in the EU and further afield.

For this to be successful, the UK government needs continue helping exporters facing both pandemic and Brexit headwinds.

UK has already made a number of initiatives including the creation of four Trade and Investment Hubs by the Department of International Trade (DIT) to support traders.

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Last month, the UK delayed its post-Brexit border checks on certain EU goods by six months to give businesses more time to prepare for the full impact of the transition.

With the trade declines still high, a lot more has to be done to save UK food and beverage exporters from recording monumental losses at the borders which subsequently lead to loss of trade.

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