UK chocolate exports to EU drop 36% over two years amid Brexit and Covid-19 pressures

Export values of chocolate from the UK to the EU have fallen significantly from 2019 to 2021, with figures down 36.9% (to £99 million), as the wider food and drink sector markets trade to the European bloc drops by a total of £2 billion in the past two years amid Brexit and Covid-19 impacts, reports Neill Barston.

The overall market sales figure drop for the quarter of 47% (against results for Q1 in 2020), meant that British sales to non-EU nations accounted for 55% of all exports, with sales to Ireland down by more than two thirds.

Furthermore, figures for Germany, Spain and Italy also declined by more than half since the first months of last year, as the coronavirus crisis compounded already challenging trading conditions for the UK export sector. Imports from the EU also fell by 10%, which analysts have forecast will worsen due to the implementation of full border checks in 2022.

As the FDF noted, all of the UK’s top 10 products exported to the EU fell significantly in value from 2019 to 2021, with dairy products reportedly being most severely impacted. Compared to 2020, exports of milk and cream to the EU have fallen by more than 90%, and exports of cheese by two thirds in the same time period.

There has also been a return to strong growth in exports to East Asia, where there is high demand for quality UK food and drink. In Q1 2021, exports to China (+28.2%), Hong Kong (+3.7%), Japan (+6.2%) and South Korea (+18.5%) were all above the levels seen in Q1 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic triggered the early closure of hospitality sectors. The UK’s top three non-EU markets, US (11%), China (5%) and Singapore (3%), now account for 19% of the UK’s total exports, a figure of £713m.

UK imports from the EU were also down 10%, driven by a number of factors including the continued closure of the UK’s hospitality sector, stockpiling in late 2020, reduced demand for ingredients as a result of the decline in exports to the EU, and import substitution. This fall is set to increase when full checks are implemented at UK borders in 2022. Of the UK’s top 10 products imported from the EU from 2019 to 2021, vegetables dropped 13.9%, wine 20%, and fruit 15.7%. Products of animal original were also heavily impacted, with large falls in imports of EU pork, cheese, chicken and beef.

Dominic Goudie, Head of International Trade, the FDF, said: “The loss of £2bn of exports to the EU is a disaster for our industry, and is a very clear indication of the scale of losses that UK manufacturers face in the longer-term due to new trade barriers with the EU.

“We set out a plan to mitigate these impacts by boosting support for exporters, and this was backed by the Trade and Agriculture Commission. The Government must stop prevaricating and get behind these proposals to help exporters that have been shut out of trading with the EU.”

John Whitehead, Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), said: “Whilst some of this large drop can be put down to end of year stockpiling, significant business has been lost as a direct result of the additional bureaucracy, customs delays and costs of trading with the EU. Experienced FDEA members are continuing to battle against inconsistent interpretations of regulations across the EU and having to weigh up whether the time and cost involved is sustainable. We fully support the FDF in pressing Government to boost support for exporters.”


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