Food exports up by 20%

British food exporters have enjoyed a bumper year, with increased volumes and a favourable exchange rate lifting earnings for all the key sectors.

New data from UK Trade and Investment – the joint government department responsible for international business development – put total food and drink exports at £14bn in 2009.

“This is about £2bn, or 19% more than before the credit crunch in 2007, when exports came to just £11.7bn ,” said a UKTI spokeswoman.

Looking at individual sectors in more detail, the new figures reveal that meat exports increased by 9% in 2009 to £1.274bn, while cereals and animal feed rose by 3% to £2.35bn and fruit and vegetables were up 10% to £763m.

The biggest outlet for UK food and drinks exports was the Republic of Ireland, which took £2.3bn worth in 2009, followed by France (£1.5bn), Spain (£982m) and the USA (£882m).

The weak pound has been a major factor aiding the competitiveness of UK food abroad, enabling exporters to undercut the competition while increasing revenue when converted back into sterling.

The pound is currently valued at 90.4p against the euro, the weakest it’s been for three months.

But UKTI also points to the efforts of individual companies which have grabbed the initiative to sell their wares. For example, Wensleydale Creamery is sited for its sales of cheese to France, together with south-west sausage producer Westaways for its trade with China.

Total UK sausage exports reached 6.2m in 2008, compared with 5.4m the year before.

* For more information on exports see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog