UK exports of food and drink to the EU dropped by almost half in the first three months of 2021 from a year earlier, in what trade groups said was a measure of the impact of post-Brexit trade barriers.
Produce to the value of £1.7bn was exported to European countries in the first quarter of the year, down 46.6 per cent from 2020, according to the Food and Drink Federation, an industry body.
The decline from 2019, when exports were unaffected by the pandemic, was even greater — a drop of 55.1 per cent, or £2bn.
Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the FDF, said: “The loss of £2bn of exports to the EU is a disaster for our industry, and is a very clear indication of the scale of losses that UK manufacturers face in the longer term due to new trade barriers with the EU.”
John Whitehead, director at the Food and Drink Exporters Association, said: “Whilst some of this large drop can be put down to end-of-year stockpiling, significant business has been lost as a direct result of the additional bureaucracy, customs delays and costs of trading with the EU.”
Whitehead said members of his group “are continuing to battle against inconsistent interpretations of regulations across the EU and having to weigh up whether the time and cost involved is sustainable”.
Goudie called on the government to implement plans previously set out by the FDF, including a Food and Drink Export Council to aid UK-wide collaboration, and more specialist support for exporters.