Export potential key for sector recovery

FDF exports SM Farm

FDF data shows that net business confidence among food and drink manufacturers reached a record low of -65.2 per cent in Q2. Despite a drop in confidence, manufacturers ranked increased domestic demand, increased export demand and access to new UK preferential trade agreements as well as planned investment in new machinery as key opportunities for the rest of 2020.

The UAE and wider Gulf region, China, and the USA and Canada were identified as potential export growth markets for food and drink manufacturers.

Santander UK and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) have launched a new report showing that despite business confidence falling to record lows across the food and drink industry in the second quarter of 2020, untapped overseas export markets remain a golden opportunity for recovery and growth for businesses across the sector.

The report delves into the impacts Covid-19 has had on food and drink manufacturers and overall business confidence.

The industry has faced a variety of challenges from the closure of the hospitality and out-of-home sectors, to rising costs and a fall in exports.

FDF’s latest data shows that net business confidence among food and drink manufacturers reached a record low of -65.2 per cent in Q2 due to Covid-19, uncertainty over Brexit and closure of food service.

Separately, Santander has carried out research into the impact of Covid-19 on SMEs.

The results found that 24 per cent of food and drink businesses expect to return to normal operating levels by the end of 2020.

Despite the challenging environment, food and drink businesses highlighted increased export growth and access to new UK preferential trade agreements as a key opportunity for the rest of the year.

UK food and drink exports are recognised globally for their quality, provenance, and heritage, and are now worth more than £23bn annually.

The report highlights export opportunities in three key market regions; the UAE and the wider Gulf region, China, and the USA and Canada with insights from Santander’s experienced sector and international specialists who support businesses looking to explore overseas opportunities:

Canada: Exports to the UK’s third largest non-EU preferential trade partner have grown by 5.7 per cent so far in 2020, led by exports of gin, beef and salmon.

USA: Closures to the hospitality sector due to Covid-19 have led to an increase in demand for ready to consume alcoholic drinks. UK exports of beer to the USA have increased by 5.8 per cent year on year from January to May this year.

China: China has seen rapid growth in demand as consumers continue to perceive UK products to be safe and of high quality, with a sense of heritage. Beef and pork exports have risen by over £60 million so far this year compared with the same period the year before.

UAE and the Gulf: The Covid-19 crisis has seen an increase in expected sales from retail – up to 90 per cent from 70 peer cent in 2019. The increasing focus on healthier lifestyles in the region has seen increased demand for organic, functional foods, and nutritionally rich products.

Working with and encouraging more businesses to identify and overcome trade barriers is a high priority for the FDF and Santander.

The FDF has identified seven steps for recovery designed to successfully restart all areas of industry, as part of its work through the Food and Drink Sector Council.

These include protecting the UK’s supply chain integrity and competitive position and accelerating plans to increase UK exports.

Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation, said:

“As the dust begins to settle, we can now see how the pandemic has had a seriously damaging impact on 2020’s overseas sales of UK food and drink.

“These were worth over £23 billion in 2019. While that figure is certain to fall for this year, there are still plenty of opportunities in foreign markets for UK food and drink manufacturers to seize in what remains of this year and as we look to 2021.”

Andrew Williams, Head of Food & Drink Sector, Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking, said: “The impacts of Covid-19 swiftly reverberated across the food and drink manufacturing industry.

“UK food and drink businesses have already recognised that increasing export sales is a potential route to recovery and offers growth and diversification benefits too.”

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