Exports snapshot

In this report:

Key Indicators

Executive summary

  • In Q1 2020, food and drink exports fell by over £700m (-12.7%) compared to the same period in 2019. Sales to EU countries were the hardest hit, with the total value falling by 17.4%.
  • This decrease was largely driven by immediate impacts of COVID-19, including the closure of hospitality and travel sectors which has meant a loss of sales into restaurants, cafés, bars and the out-of-home sector across Europe.
  • While sales to the majority of our top markets have declined, demand has been more resilient from others, including Singapore, Canada and Norway, which have each seen sales growth of more than 10%.
  • The UK's food and drink trade deficit also decreased compared with 2019, indicating decreased relative reliance on imports.
  • Declines were reported among the UK's top ten products, with whisky, chocolate, cheese, salmon and gin seeing export value drops of over £20m in Q1. Pork, which saw an increase in value, and beef and vegetables, which saw volume increases, were exceptions to this.Branded food and drink exports have declined to the EU, but have seen an uptick towards non-EU countries both in value and volume, driven by China, the US and Australia.
  • Exports of UK food and drink have a critical role to play in supporting the sector during these challenging times and driving the UK's wider economic recovery. FDF is working with Government to address critical gaps in sector-specific export support that is urgently required.
  • In this edition of the report, we feature insight from FDF Affiliate Members, Pentadel Project Management and Irwin Mitchell Solicitors on restructuring production operations, and negotiating supply contracts.

Top 10 products


Top 20 markets


UK food and drink exports over the last 10 years

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Non-EU branded exports up in Q1

  • Despite the overall value of branded goods exports falling by 9.1%, sales to non-EU countries continued to grow, led by strong demand from the US, Australia and China.
  • The share of exports to the EU fell in Q1 2020 - both for branded and for all food and drink. Almost one third of branded UK food and drink exports now go to non-EU countries, a 4.5pp increase on Q1 2019.
  • Of the UK's top 10 markets, sales to all EU partners decreased whereas there was growth to non-EU partners, highlighting continued growth opportunities in markets further afield.


Growth in sales to US, Australia and China

  • The US, Australia and China all demonstrated sustained demand for UK branded food and drink in Q1 2020. Together, these countries are significant sources of demand - in 2019, they accounted for almost 10% of all UK branded exports, and over 15% of overall food and drink exports. For more on opportunities outside these markets, click here
  • Branded exports to Australia increased by 3.5% in Q1 2020, driven by increased sales of cakes and baked goods (including tarts, pastries, wafers, pizzas and quiches), which saw a 12% increase on Q1 2019.
  • Exports of drinks drove overall sales growth to the US. Namely, beer and soft drinks which performed well over the 3 months to March 2020 - these categories combined were worth £42m.
  • Despite experiencing a prolonged period of lockdown early in 2020, branded goods exports to China grew to £34m in Q1. This was largely due to an increase in sales of gin, as well as bottled water.
  • As China enters its post-Covid-19-recovery, CBBC have begun running virtual trade missions, meet-the-buyer events and trade shows.


Q1 branded good exports over 10 years

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What government support is available for exporters affected by COVID-19?

Support for businesses trading internationally

The Department for International Trade (DIT) published advice for exporters and are running a series of webinars. This includes support to address issues with customs authorities to ensure the smooth clearance of goods and to provide advice on intellectual property and business continuity concerns. DIT can also help find alternative suppliers.

How to access:
Contact DIT's dedicated business support team on 0300 456 3565 or by emailing COVID19@trade.gov.uk.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) Export Insurance

UKEF expanded its Export Insurance Policy (EXIP) to cover sales to the EU, US, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. They offer insurance covering up to 95% of the value of an export contract, protecting against the risk of non-payment where customers become insolvent or their Government's actions make fulfilling a contract impossible. UKEF works with banks and insurance brokers to provide guarantees, loans and insurance to protect exporters facing delayed payments or transit restrictions:

  1. If your business is facing disruption due to late payments, UKEF can help ease cash flow constraints through its Export Working Capital Scheme.
  2. If you are concerned about getting paid, UKEF offers an export insurance policy that can help you recover the costs of fulfilling an order.
  3. UKEF can also support finance for overseas buyers through the Direct Lending Facility scheme, so they can continue to buy your goods and services.
  4. UKEF has over £4bn of capacity to support UK firms exporting to China, as well as significant capacity across other markets.

How to access:
Find out more here and to find out if UKEF covers your region, email customer.service@ukexportfinance.gov.uk

For access to more FDF guidance on support available for food and drink manufacturers, visit our website.

More information


Last reviewed: 28 May 2020