UK food exports reach record highs in 2022

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

UK food and drink exports hit record highs in 2021
UK food and drink exports hit record highs in 2021

Related tags Export Drink Confectionery Dairy

UK food and drink exports reached record highs in 2022, with most categories exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

The FDF’s full-year trade snapshot revealed UK food and drink exports were worth £24.8bn last year, with exports to Europe up 22% to £13.7bn. For the very first time, exports to non-EU markets broke through the £10bn barrier, now worth £11.1bn.

Chocolate remained the UK’s top food export at £824.3m, up 7.4% from pre-pandemic levels and an increase of 9.5% from 2021. Cheese took the number two slot with a value of £785.4m, but its rapid growth from the previous year (+39%) could see it overtake chocolate in 2023.

Salmon was the third most valuable food export in 2022 with a value of £705m, but saw a significant decrease in both value and volume – down 4.1% and 21.2% from 2021 respectively.

Whisky exports

However, these figures were once again dwarfed by exports of whisky, which dominated with a value of £6.4bn in 2022. What’s more, the segment saw massive growth both year on year (+37.2%) and compared to pre-pandemic levels (+26.7%).

Commenting on the industry’s export success, FDF head of international trade Dominic Goudie said: “As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, dynamic trade is vital if our sector is to deliver the robust growth we’d like it to in the coming months and years, benefitting communities in every part of the UK.

“There also remains substantial opportunities to deliver further export growth, but this will require government to use all the trade policy levers at its disposal in support of the food and drink sector to ensure that our producers can access competitively priced ingredients and sell into the fastest-growing markets.”

Goudie also noted that imports were essential for the success of the food and drink sector, which added value to UK produce while ensuring consistent availability and value for shoppers.

‘Dogged determination’

UK Food and Drink Exporters Association director Nicola Thomas said the export growth figures were a testament to the “dogged determination” of food and drink exporters, businesses that have exploited global commercial opportunities to break down the myriad of banners that hindered international trade.

“We are encouraged to see the increasing demand for British products in emerging markets such as Vietnam and the MINT territories which are helping to up new sales avenues for our more established exporters,”​ she added.

“In addition, recent FDEA research among our network of overseas in-market partners highlights a wide range of product categories in almost universal demand including snacking, non-alcoholic drinks, health & wellness, dairy and private label. There is huge scope for UK companies to seize further opportunities in 2023.”

Meanwhile, prime minister Rishi Sunak has agreed a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland​with European Commission president Ursula Van der Leyen, which would see the end of restrictions on the trade of goods traveling overseas in the UK.

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