Food and Drink Industry Report 2021

19 April 2021

A joint FDF and Santander publication, the report looks at exports performance in 2020 and highlights the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of the EU Exit transition period on food and drink manufacturing. The report includes a focus on exports to four growth markets: the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Santander’s export team provides insights for all four markets.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on businesses operating across the food and drink sector and exports fell by 9.7% compared to the previous year. The reduction in exports was reflected among all the UK nations and regions, whose performance and contribution is carefully analysed in the report, alongside insights provided by FDF Scotland and FDF Cymru.

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FDF Foreword

The last twelve months have been particularly challenging for food and drink manufacturers. Businesses have been focused on their own corporate survival and of that of their suppliers and customers. That has involved mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on food supplies at exactly the same time as preparing for the end of the EU Exit Transition period, and dealing with the complexities and difficulties that have arisen as a result. All of us in the industry are immensely proud of the way in which all points of the food and drink supply chain - from farm to fork - have responded to these challenges. Our people have been the hidden heroes of this most testing year.

As the UK forges its new identity as an independent trading nation and looks to promote economic recovery, there remains significant headroom for growth for UK food and drink exports, both within the EU and further afield. Food and drink exports are a UK success story. They are prized around the world for their quality and provenance. After more than a decade of continuous growth, we experienced a significant drop in our exports over the first nine months of 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19. The loss of these exports will have critical impacts for profitability across our supply chain - with knock-on effects for both prices and availability for the UK’s shoppers and consumers.

Government must now look to implement longer-term export support - as recommended by the UK’s Trade and Agriculture Commission, industry members of the Food and Drink Sector Council and the FDF - to put in place the ‘bounce-back plan’ for agri-food and drink exporters.

Ian Wright, CBE
Chief Executive, FDF