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Food Exports To The EU Saw A Huge Collapse In January, With Salmon Sales Falling By 98%

Food Exports To The EU Saw A Huge Collapse In January, With Salmon Sales Falling By 98%
3 min read

Food and drink exports to the European Union fell by over 75% in the weeks following the end of the Brexit transition period, according to stark new industry figures.

The data, published on Monday by the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), revealed the scale of the disruption faced by British businesses which tried to export products to the EU in January. Sales of fish, meat and cheese to the continent all collapsed significantly.

Food & Drink exports to the EU in the first month of this year dropped by 75.5% compared to January 2019, according to the FDF. This sharp fall in sales equated to nearly £750m. 

Exports to non-EU countries fell by a much smaller 11.1%, however, meaning the decline can't be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic alone. 

The FDF said pre-Brexit stockpiling and the closure of shops and hospitality in Europe due to the coronavirus contributed to the severe drop in exports to the continent.

However, "much" of the collapse was due to the new checks and red tape brought about by the UK's new trading relationship with the EU, the organisation said.

The data, compiled using HMRC figures, is the latest evidence of how post-Brexit paperwork has impacted exports of meat and fish in particular since the trade deal agreed by Boris Johnson and EU leaders came into effect.

Salmon exports to the EU fell by 98% compared to January 2019 — a near total collapse.

Elsewhere, beef fell by 91.5%, pork by 86.9%, and cheese 85.1%. Exports of breakfast cereral (74.4%), chocolate (68.4%) and whisky (63.1%) also fell by over a half. Dominic Goudie, the FDF's Head of International Trade, said the figures were "extremely worrying" and warned that European businesses exporting goods to the UK faced "the same difficulties" when the government begins to introduce import checks later this year.

He called on the government and Brussels to revisit the trade deal agreed in December "as a matter of urgency" in order "to put in place solutions that deliver the Trade and Cooperation Agreement's aim of enhancing the ability of small businesses to benefit from trade".

Exports to all EU member states fell sharply, according to the FDF research.

The most dramatic falls came in Ireland (84.9%), Italy (84.%) and Germany (80.6%).

A number of industry groups have urged the government to renegotiate the terms of the UK's trade deal with the EU in order to remove time-consuming new barriers to trade.

Food exports to the EU now must be checked for customs and health paperwork before entering the continent. These new processes have caused delays, resulting in some European buyers to cancelling orders and led many British businesses to stop sales to the EU altogether.

Luke Pollard, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, told PoliticsHome: "Ministers must not dodge the consequences of their poor Brexit deal on Britain's most valuable manufacturing sector.

"Government needs to take its head out of the sand, and start putting in place recovery programmes to help businesses and cut the new swathes of home-grown red tape they've forced on food exporters".

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