FOOD FROM BRITAIN, the consultancy group representing British food and drink producers, has reported a 10% increase in exports for 2003.

Sales rose to £9.8bn, up £908m on the previous year and significantly better than the previous year‘s growth of £380m.

The latest figures represent a return to form for food and drink exports, reaching the highest level since the record peak of £10.1bn in 1996.

The performance is more impressive when compared to the growth of only 1% in the UK‘s total visible exports, of which food and drink contributes.

Demand from EU markets continued to be strong and in 2003 exports to the region increased by 11% – a rise of £624m to £6.2bn.

Strong gains were made in most European countries in 2003, with exports to Italy up 27% and Spain – which saw a decline of 5% in 2002 – recovering well with a 26% rise.

Exports to Belgium were also up by 9%, France and The Netherlands both up by 8%, Germany up by 2% and Greece up 16%, breaking in to the top ten for the first time.

Exports to non-EU markets also showed considerable improvements from 2002, finishing the year up 9%.

The UK‘s key non-EU export regions – North America and Asia, which account for a total of 60% of non-EU exports – recorded increases of 8% and 3% respectively.

Although starting from smaller bases, the largest increases were in Central Europe where exports rose by 42%.

Performance in the Middle East was just as impressive with a positive increase in demand of 22%.

Demand for added value food continued and the UK‘s position as leaders in this sector was emphasised with increases in this sector reported across the world.

The added value sector now accounts for 64% of all exports, worth £6.27bn.

Areas affected by trading restrictions in previous years are now coming back strongly, according to Food From Britain.

Total meat sales were up by 17%, with both beef and lamb performing well, while the dairy sector increased cheese sales by 14%, milk sales by 25% and butter sales by 6%. 

Simon Waring, FFB‘s marketing and international management director, predicted that 2004 would be a record breaking year as exports top the previous high of £10.1bn.

“2003 has been a successful year for Britain‘s exporters, with most markets around the world in growth. 

“Indications for trading in 2004 show trading will slow slightly but continue with good opportunities in all regions from Europe to Asia-Pacific.”