The first six months of 2017 saw exports of all UK food and drink grow to £10.2bn, a rise of 8.5% compared to the first half of 2016, according to the Food and Drink Federation.
The figure represents the highest first half exports value on record, with the UK’s top three food and drink export products being whisky, salmon and beer.
Contrary to recent export trends, stronger growth was reported to EU countries (+9.0%) than to countries outside the EU (+7.6%).
Ireland, France and the US are reportedly the top three destinations for UK food and drink in terms of overall value.
Positive growth was reported in each one of the top 20 markets, apart from Spain and Japan. Spain saw a 17.6% decrease compared with H1 2016 due to a drop in commodity exports such as wheat and barley, while Japan was marginally down by 2%.
The three export markets that saw the greatest percentage growth in value in H1 were South Korea (+77%), China (+35%), and Belgium (+39%).
The rapid growth in exports to growing East Asian markets was led by South Korea, a nation fast gaining a taste for British beer, with overall exports surging to £156.3m.
The US is the UK’s top non-EU market for exports of branded food and drink, reaching £91.5m in H1 2017, up from £87.8m in 2016.
Top UK branded goods sold to the US in H1 included food preparations, bread, pastry, cakes, puddings and sweet biscuits. Indeed, the US has been identified by the government as providing significant opportunities for a trade deal post-Brexit.
While the fall in the price of the pound helped to boost UK export competitiveness, the currency weakness has also led to an increase in the cost of many essential imported ingredients and raw materials. This has resulted in the UK’s food and drink trade deficit increasing by 16% to -£12.4bn in H1 2017.
Food and Drink Federation (FDF) recently commissioned Grant Thornton to undertake an economic contribution report, which identified China (£274.3m in H1), India (£50.7m in H1) and the UAE (£164.8m in H1) as the top three target markets that food and drink companies would like to target.
These countries were prioritised by the companies surveyed based on their scale which affords a sizeable middle-class target customer base with strong and growing demand for quality Western products.