That’s according to figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).
The trade body attributed the fall to new barriers to trade with the EU after Brexit and the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exports to core markets including Germany (-44.5%), Italy (-43.3%) and Spain (-50.6%) had been particularly badly hit since 2019. UK exports to Ireland – the industry’s biggest overseas market – were down more than a quarter since 2019. This represented a loss of nearly £0.75bn in sales.
Whisky and salmon recover
However, global exports of whisky and salmon have started to recover, with sales of both products up 21% compared to 2020. All other major products, including beef (-18.4%), cheese (-13.2%) and pork (-5.7%) have continued to decline, with the exception of soft drinks which grew 11% from 2020.
More positive news can be seen in non-EU markets in the past year, with exports up 11%. That was fuelled by a return to strong growth in China (+22.1%), Taiwan (+21.8%), the United Arab Emirates (+18.3%), Japan (+10.6%) and Singapore (+5.4%).
Imports have been badly impacted since 2019, with sales from the EU down nearly 11% in the nine months to September compared to pre-COVID levels – a fall of more than £2.5bn. Imports from the Netherlands (-19%), Ireland (-20.1%) and Germany (-33.1%) were most severely hit over the past two years.
Delayed import controls
With the UK due to implement its delayed import controls on products arriving from the EU in 2022, this would further impact the cost and availability of supplies of food and drink from the EU, the FDF claimed. That would affect essential ingredients and raw materials required by UK manufacturers.