Mixed picture for regional food and drink exports in 2021

Wales exceeded pre-Covid-19 food and drink export levels in 2021, with the trade growing by 20% to £558m.

The latest analysis from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) shows that the other UK nations are yet to see exports bounce back to the levels seen in 2019.

The report analyses trends in food and drink trade for each of the four UK nations.

See also: Government must match-fund AHDB cash to grow exports – NFU

The research comes just weeks after the NFU called for government support to help grow UK agri-food exports by 30% by 2030.

It shows that while exports overall were down in 2021, some regions are showing promising signs of recovery, especially Scotland, Wales, the north-east of England and the West Midlands.


Food and drink exports from England totalled £10.2bn in 2021, which was 9% down on 2020 and 15% lower than in 2019.

Vegetables and fruit were hit hardest, with sales down almost 36%.

However, the North East bucked the trend, recording a 20.4% increase in exports, with a total value of £280m.


Scotland’s exports were up 15% in 2021 to £5.7bn, but this is still 5% lower than in 2019.

The recovery has largely been driven by a strong return to growth in exports of beverages, which includes Scotch whisky.

France was Scotland’s largest export partner, with goods worth more than £1bn heading there, overtaking the US as the top destination.

Exports to China almost doubled at nearly £225m, and made up 4% of Scotland’s food and drink exports.


The growth in exports to Wales was driven by strong demand for cereals, up 132% since 2019 and worth close to £139m.

Wales’ second biggest export category was meat, which was worth £132m.

Ireland was Wales’ largest export partner, with exports up 7% since 2020. 

Strong growth was also seen in exports to France and Belgium, growing 42% and 163%, respectively

Northern Ireland

The report shows Northern Ireland’s food and drink exports fell 1% in 2021 to £1.6bn.

Dairy product exports were 11% lower than in 2019, with meat exports having fallen by nearly 19% over the same period.

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