Appetite for whisky and salmon helps British exports soar to a record £4.9bn in the first three months


  • Sales of British food and drink exports rose 8.3% to £4.9bn at the start of the year
  • Whisky, salmon, chocolate, cheese and beer were the top five sellers 
  • Among the fastest-growing markets was South Korea, with sales up 40.3%

Food and drink exported from the UK has soared to a record high as the weak pound boosts demand for British produce.

Sales rose 8.3 per cent to £4.9 billion in the first three months of the year – the biggest haul ever for that period of the year.

Whisky, salmon, chocolate, cheese and beer were the top five sellers followed by wine, pork, gin, beef and vegetables.

Exports of whisky rose 9.9 per cent to £895.9 million while the value of salmon sold jumped 52.3 per cent to £186.7 million spurred by a surge in global demand as well as exchange rates making Scottish salmon cheaper than Norwegian and Chilean.

And sales to non-EU countries grew at a faster rate than those to Europe. The official customs figures show the value of goods sold to EU countries increased by 7.4 per cent while they rose 9.4 per cent to the rest of the world.

The EU was still the country’s biggest food and drink export market, however, accounting for £3 billion of exports compared to £1.9 billion going to outside markets.

Among the fastest-growing export markets was South Korea, with sales of UK goods up 40.3 per cent to £50.3 million, driven by growing demand for British beer.

Julian Jessop, chief economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘There is a presumption that countries will sell a lot more to neighbours than further afield, but that we can sell to South Korea is very encouraging.

‘A falling currency is an opportunity to break into a new market – then even if the pound goes back, they have a foothold.’

Brexit campaigner John Longworth, the former director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘It’s part of a general pattern whereby export performance has confounded the “Remoaners” post-Brexit.

‘The fall in the currency is the currency reaching its natural level and the economy has continued to be robust.

‘The fall will provide a window for manufacturers and producers to increase their productivity.’ The Food and Drink Federation published the data yesterday.

Traditionally the second half of the year is even stronger due to increased demand from overseas for British goods such as whisky and salmon over Christmas.

The £1.9 billion value of exports to non-EU countries has increased from £800 million in the first quarter of 2007.

But economists cautioned the fall in the pound was also making goods more expensive for British producers. Several retailers have blamed Brexit for recent price increases.

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation said: ‘It is very pleasing to see non-EU exports performing beyond expectations. As the UK leaves the EU, growth in exports is hugely important.’  

May 31st, 2017: This is Money