Containers and crane at docks © General Images / UIG/REX/Shutterstock© General Images / UIG/REX/Shutterstock

The value of UK food and drink exports rose by 8.5% to a record £10.2bn in the first half of 2017.

Exports to the EU27 grew at a faster rate than to non-EU markets, increasing the share of sales to the European Union to 61.2%

Helped by the fall in the pound since late-June last year, the top 20 markets apart from Spain and Japan all had positive growth. Spain took 17.6% less by value from the UK because of a fall in commodity exports, such as wheat and barley, while Japan was marginally down by 2%.

The greatest percentage growth in value was to South Korea (+77%) which is developing a taste for British beer, Belgium (+39%) and China (+35%).

See also: Farmers not feeling benefit of booming Scots food exports

UK food and drink exports

  • Sales of branded food and non-alcoholic drink led the rise, with exports up 11.3% on January-June 2016
  • Top three export products are whisky, salmon and beer
  • Top three export destinations are Ireland, France and the USA

Exports to the USA – the top non-EU market – reached £91.5m, up from £87.8m in 2016, with branded goods such as food preparations, bread, pastry, cakes, puddings and sweet biscuits doing well.

While the fall in the price of the pound had helped to boost UK export competitiveness, this currency weakness has also led to an increase in the cost of many essential imported ingredients and raw materials, said the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

This has resulted in the UK’s food and drink trade deficit increasing by 16% to -£12.4bn in 2017.

A Grant Thornton study for the FDF identified China (which took £274.3m of UK food and drink exports in January to June 2017), the United Arab Emirates (£164.8m) and India (£50.7m) as the top three target markets for food and drink companies.