FDF releases Q1 2024 Trade Snapshot Report

05 June 2024

New report reveals UK’s first quarter export volumes fall to one of the lowest levels recorded in 15 years


The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has today published its Trade Snapshot report for Q1. The report has found that between January and March 2024, there was a significant decline in UK food export volumes, falling by over 20 per cent on the year. This represents the lowest Q1 volume in the last 15 years, except for an exceptional period in Q1 2021 which saw the end of the transition period and the global pandemic.

The total export value of food and drink for Q1 stood at £5.7bn, falling 5.3 per cent when compared with the same period the previous year. Ireland remains the UK’s largest export market, despite a fall of 3.5 per cent to £1bn.

The findings suggest that rising costs and the global economic slowdown have been impacting trade substantially. To help address this decline, improved support for exporters is needed, particularly for SMEs, which are more vulnerable to the challenges posed by new costs and processes. In addition, industry requires a supportive business environment that allows firms to compete overseas and doesn’t saddle companies with costly and unnecessary regulatory burdens.

Food import volumes increased by over 7 per cent on the year and import values increased by 0.4 per cent to £14.8bn. The report highlights the impact of the introduction of the Export Health Certificate for medium-risk EU goods in January of this year under the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM). This has led to increased costs and bureaucracy for traders, reflected in the decline of beef and poultry imports. The second phase of the BTOM, which took effect at the end of April, introduced new checks and fees, adding to the challenges faced by the industry.

Balwinder Dhoot, Director of Industrial Growth and Sustainability said:

“Trade in food and drink plays a critical role in the UK’s food supply resilience and the industry contributes billions to the UK economy. Our analysis is concerning, with food export volumes seeing a significant decline by over a fifth on the year.

 “The next government must help unlock the full competitive trade potential of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector by delivering a trade strategy that builds business confidence and provides greater support for exporters to arrest this decline.”

The report also focuses on opportunities to enhance existing trading arrangements with Turkey, South Africa and Morocco and potential new opportunities in the Gulf Region, the UK’s second largest non-EU market for food and drink exports. Trade with Turkey now ranks in the top twenty destinations for food and drink exports, increasing by 0.8 per cent to reach a record high of £60m. Imports from Turkey also rose by 15.2 per cent to reach £197.5m with fruits (£54.7m) and fish (£30.4m) the highest value imports. Exports to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) increased by 4.3 per cent to nearly £196m, with cheese (£12.0m) and soft drinks (£5.8m) showing strong growth.


Notes to Editors

  • The FDF has compiled the latest trade figures released by his Majesty’s Customs and Excise. View Q1 2024 Trade Snapshot report
  • An overall volume figure for food and drink can’t be fully obtained as different products are measured in different ways, such as kilograms and litres. Volume figures give a better indicator of the trade picture as they capture both changes in prices - inflation and changes in quantities traded. Products measured in kilograms are mostly food.
  • The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is the voice of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector which supports half a million jobs and contributes £38bn to the UK economy. Download our manifesto