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Non-EU food and drink exports overtake EU sales

The government has launched a new mentoring scheme for food and drink producers after news that first quarter sales of UK food and drink to the EU dropped by nearly half compared to 2020.

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In the first three months of 2021, food and drink exports to the EU dropped by an alarming 47 per cent compared to Q1 of 2020, equivalent to around £2 billion in lost sales.

Exports to nearly all EU Member States fell significantly - notably in Ireland, where exports fell by more than two thirds, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

In comparison, there has been a return to strong growth in exports to non-EU markets such as East Asia, where economies closed earlier during the pandemic. In total, sales to non-EU nations now account for more than half of all UK food and drink exports.

Experts put the findings down to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and adapting to new trading  relationships.

John Whitehead, Director at the Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), commented:

“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. Experienced FDEA members 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.”

The news comes shortly after the government launched a new agri-mentoring scheme to boost UK food exports. The programme, which is being run by the Department for International Trade (DIT), will match experienced exporters with food and drink businesses who are looking to export for the first time.

The initiative is one of several to have been launched in the post-EU Exit era as the government looks to promote international trade.

According to recent research, overseas demand for UK food and drink in particular is booming, especially in far-flung markets like India, China and the UAE.

The government believes its recently announced Free Trade Agreement with Australia will also open up new opportunities for UK food and drink in Pacific region.

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