UK food exports grow for fifth consecutive year

UK exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks have hit record levels, research by industry body the Food and Drink Federation has revealed.

The value of exports grew for a fifth consecutive year in 2009, increasing by 4.4% to £9.65bn as the weak value of the pound against the euro favoured trade with EU countries. The sector’s performance was in stark contrast to other manufacturing sectors which experienced an 11.8% slump in overseas sales last year due to the recession.

Non-alcoholic drinks (soft drinks and waters) was the best performing sector, with growth of 20.6% to £318.6m, driven by strong gains in the major European markets such as Ireland, France, Spain and Germany.

Meat (and related animal products) exports were up 5% overall to £1,289.6m, despite being dragged down by a 14.7% decline in pork exports. There was particularly strong growth in the value of lamb and beef products exported, which increased by over 18% and 20% respectively. Poultry saw a 5.5% growth in exports.

“This strong performance is testimony to the persistence and entrepreneurial spirit of British manufacturers, as well as a reflection of the quality they produce,” FDF director general Melanie Leech said.

Exports of cereal and bakery products were £1,914.5m in 2009, a rise of just 1.4% on the previous year, largely restricted by a 17.4% drop in cereal commodity markets.

The dairy sector was the “laggard of the year”, with exports down 6.9% to £776.9m. “The strong growth seen in cheese exports in recent years has come to a shuddering halt, with just a 0.5% rise in 2009 and exports to key cheese markets such as The Netherlands and the USA struggling to get near previous year levels,” the FDF report said.

The EU remains the main destination for UK food and drink exports, accounting for almost 80% of overseas sales. But there has been strong growth outside the EU, with exports to Oceania up 16% and those to North America increasing 15%.

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