Food and drink exports across the North East of England are recovering from the challenges of the pandemic with manufacturers taking advantage of new trading relationships across the world, according to research by the Food and Drink Federation.

The FDF’s UK Food and Drink Exports report reveals the latest breakdown of food and drink exports from across the UK during 2021.

The report shows the North East, alongside Wales and Scotland, as having the strongest recovery in response to the supply chain problems caused by Covid and the new UK-EU trading relationship. An important sign that the food and drink industry can play a vital role in levelling up the country.

Read more: All of our Eating Out stories are here

Key findings from the report include:

The North East saw the largest increase in exports reaching £280m – a 20.4% increase from 2020. This was largely driven by an increase of over 30% of fish and seafood in 2020.

Exports of cereals as well as coffee, tea and spices are now worth more than £42m and £70m respectively.

Products being exported to Germany and Norway have skyrocketed, growing by 155% and 138% respectively since 2020.

The share of exports to non-EU markets has fallen in the North East, but there are big opportunities to drive further export growth as the UK Government delivers new global trade deals. However, more can be done to improve the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement, to help companies recover exports in the EU alongside growing market share in other global markets.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not factored into this report, and FDF says it is yet to understand its full impact on the sector’s exports and on the global supply chains on which the sector relies for some ingredients, such as vegetable oils, cereals and white fish.

The Food and Drink Federation’s Chief Executive Karen Betts said: “It’s very encouraging to see exports starting to recover across many parts of the UK, with companies starting to pull out of Covid-related disruption and adapting to the UK’s new trading relationships with countries around the world. Every product we export is rooted in our culture and our communities, and it’s great to see that our food and drink is sought out by consumers all over the world.

“Our report also shows the vital role that food and drink manufacturing plays in every community across the UK’s four nations, and how central our sector is to prosperity at home as well as in driving exports overseas.“

The summary of key findings for England was:

▪ Food and drink exports from England totalled £10.2bn in 2021, down 9% from 2020, and 15% lower than in 2019.

▪ England’s biggest, beverages, was worth £2.3bn with sales up nearly 8% in 2021, but still down on pre-Covid sales from 2019.

▪ Most categories are down on pre-Covid levels. Vegetables and fruit have been hit hardest, with sales down nearly 36%.

▪ Ireland was the top destination for exports in England, buying nearly 15% of all exports, worth £1.5bn in 2021. However these sales are down a quarter since 2020.

▪ 2021 saw healthy growth in sales to France and the USA, with exports up 12% and 10% respectively.

Minister for Exports Mike Freer said: “It’s brilliant to see food and drink companies from every corner of the UK selling their products to the world, growing our economy and supporting jobs across the country.

“Our 12-point Export Strategy, Export Support Service and new network of agri-food and drink attachés are all ways we’re supporting businesses to boost their exports and take advantage of exciting new opportunities across the globe.”