Scottish salmon has helped UK food and drink exports rise by more than 8 per cent in the first half of this year. Photo: SSPO
Scottish salmon has helped UK food and drink exports rise by more than 8 per cent in the first half of this year. Photo: SSPO

Salmon, whisky and beer lift food exports

Scottish salmon has played a big part in boosting UK food and drink exports in the first half of 2017, figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) confirm.


The first six months of this year saw exports of all UK food and drink grow to £10.2bn, up 8.5 per cent on H1 2016. This represents the highest first-half exports value on record.

The UK's top three export products are whisky, salmon and beer. Contrary to recent export trends, stronger growth was reported to EU countries (+9.0 per cent) than to countries outside the EU (+7.6 per cent).

Top destinations

Ireland, France and the United States are the top three destinations for UK food and drink in terms of overall value. Positive growth was reported in all top 20 markets, apart from Spain and Japan. Spain saw a 17.6 per cent decrease compared with H1 2016 due to a drop in commodity exports such as wheat and barley, while Japan was marginally down by 2 per cent.

The three export markets that saw the greatest percentage growth in value in H1 were South Korea (+77 per cent), China (+35 per cent), and Belgium (+39 per cent). The rapid growth in exports to growing East Asian markets was led by South Korea fast gaining a taste for British beer, and overall exports surged to £156.3m.

The US is the UK's top non-EU market for exports of branded food and drink, reaching £91.5m in H1 2017, up from £87.8m in 2016. Top UK branded goods sold to the US in H1 included food preparations, bread, pastry, cakes, puddings and sweet biscuits. The US has been identified by the UK Government as providing significant opportunities for a trade deal post-Brexit.

Target markets

The FDF recently commissioned accountants Grant Thornton to undertake an economic contribution report, which identified China (£274.3m in H1), India (£50.7m in H1) and the United Arab Emirates(£164.8m in H1) as the top three target markets that food and drink companies would like to target. Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation, said last week that the industry must make greater efforts to establish itself in China.

While the fall in the price of the pound had helped to boost UK export competitiveness, this currency weakness has also led to an increase in the cost of many essential imported ingredients and raw materials. This has resulted in the UK’s food and drink trade deficit increasing by 16 per cent to -£12.4bn in H1 2017.

Ian Wright, director general of FDF, said: “The growth of food and alcoholic drink exports is very encouraging. We want to work with Government to take advantage of increased demand for UK products overseas and the opportunities that leaving the EU is expected to create.

“It is great to see such strong growth in our exports to EU member states. The EU remains an essential market for UK exports as well as for supplies of key ingredients and raw materials used by our industry. We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our sector’s exports further still. The continuing weakness of sterling is a concern. However, we hope that with the determination of businesses and the assistance of Government, we can open more channels and provide a further boost to the UK’s competitiveness on the world market.”