Pork contributes to record UK food and drink exports

Pork is the UK food and drink industry’s ninth biggest export product, according to figures released today showing record food and drink export levels for the first half of 2017.

Exports of all UK food and drink in the first six months of this year grew to £10.2bn, up 8.5% on 2016 and the largest exports value on record for the first half of the year, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) figures show. Exports to the EU27 grew at a faster rate than to non-EU markets, increasing the share of sales to the EU to 61.2%

Sales of branded food and non-alcoholic drink continue to lead the way with exports up 11.3% on H1 2016.

The top three export destinations remain Ireland, France and the United States. 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 fast gaining a taste for British beer, and overall exports surged to £156.3m.

The UK’s top three export products are whisky, salmon and beer, with pork ranked in ninth place. Pork exports have grown consistently in recent years, reaching record levels in 2016, driven by a 47% rise in exports to China. The latest data shows a small (2%) year-on-year drop in export volumes in the first six months of 2017 to 107,000 tonnes, due to a combination of weaker Chinese demand and tight UK supplies.

In June, despite a 5% drop in export volumes compared with a year ago, the value of UK pork exports was 11% higher compared with June 2016 due a rise in unit prices.

UK’s top 10 food and drink exports

  1. Whisky
  2. Salmon
  3. Beer
  4. Chocolate
  5. Cheese
  6. Wine
  7. Gin
  8. Beef
  9. Pork
  10. Soft drinks

Source: H&M Customs and Excise·

While the fall in the price of the pound had helped to boost UK food and drink export competitiveness, this 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 the first half of 2017. Pork saw a 23% year-on-year increase in import volumes during the period.

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.

Ian Wright CBE, FDF director general said: “The growth of food and alcoholic drink exports is very encouraging. We want to work with Government to take advantage of increased demand for UK products overseas and the opportunities that leaving the EU is expected to create.”

“It is great to see such strong growth in our exports to EU Member States. The EU remains an essential market for UK exports as well as for supplies of key ingredients and raw materials used by our industry. We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our sector’s exports further still.”

Food and Farming Minister George Eustice MP said: “These encouraging figures show that the UK’s high quality foods and high standards are sought after around the world.

“We have ambitious plans to produce and export more of our fabulous foods around the world and more businesses are trying exporting for the first time.

“Last week we announced further market access to China for pork producers and UK beef will soon be heading to the Philippines. We will continue to work with industry to open new opportunities.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.