Meat helps drive food export charge

Meat has helped drive a recession-defying increase in UK food exports so far this year, latest figures show.

According to new research commissioned by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), exports of food and non-alcoholic have drinks bucked the recessionary trend and were up 10.2% to £4.82bn in the first six months of the year.

Meat exports were a big growth area – up 14.8% to £632.9m. Increases were largely driven by beef (+41.1% to £130.2m) and lamb (+30% to £154.1m), which continue to make huge progress across European markets. Sausages also jumped by 40% to £9.3m, although pork exports declined by 14.3%.

Poultry exports also rose 11.3% to £111.8m. This is attributed to big gains in main markets Ireland (+13.9%) and Germany (+98.1%), as well as large rises in exports to Hong Kong, Vietnam and China

The EU remains the standout region for exports, with an 80.8% share of UK food and non-alcoholic drinks exports, fuelled by strong growth in sales to The Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain.

Exports to France were up +17.0% to £618.7m, driven by a growth in exports of meat, which increased 23.8% overall. Lamb (+27.1%,) and fresh beef (+82.3%) were key growth areas. Fresh beef exports to the Netherlands also continued to increase (+38.3%). Meat exports to Portugal were up by a massive 150.8%, driven by a 511.9% increase in lamb exports.

Food and non-alcoholic drink export growth did slow down during the second quarter of 2009, but the FDF points out that a 10.2% still compares “extremely favourably” with the 13.4% decrease in exports of all UK goods. Even with slower growth exports are expected to reach £9.5bn to £10bn by the end of the year, which would be a fourth consecutive record annual performance.

Melanie Leech, director general, Food and Drink Federation, said that the figures are “testimony to the efforts” of UK exporters to build overseas sales in “very challenging international trading conditions”. She added that more could be done to help smaller companies maximise their potential in overseas markets, however, pointing out that issues such as a lack of insurance and longer credit terms are creating “real headaches for exporters”.

Leech called on the government to extend its trade credit insurance scheme and consider backing an international an international trade credit insurance scheme to “ensure UK exporters can compete on a level playing field”.

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