The food and drink sector has achieved record export figures for the first half of 2023, according to a new report published by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). Cheese holds the top spot as the UK’s most popular export.

The FDF’s Trade Snapshot H1 shows export sales have risen to almost £12 billion in the first half of 2023, from £11.5 billion in 2022.

It stated that much of the growth has been driven by the EU, with the value of exports increasing by more than 7% to £6.9 billion. However, volumes of exports have been impacted by the multiple challenges that the UK food supply chain has faced with significant labour shortages, rising wage and energy bills, which have all led to higher food prices.

The report showed that cheese is the UK’s top food export and is now worth nearly £400 million compared to chocolate sales of £386 million. Salmon and breakfast cereals are close behind with sales of both products exceeding £350 million.

Non-EU markets prove difficult to please

According to the FDF, exports haven’t fared so well to non-EU markets, with a 1.2% drop in value compared to the first half of 2022.

The FDF’s head of international trade Dominic Goudie said: “Trade in UK food and drink is beginning to stabilise after the challenges of Brexit, a global pandemic, and global weather events in recent years, that led to significant supply chain disruption, surging energy prices and volatile ingredient costs.

“The growth we have seen in the first half of the year demonstrates our industry’s resilience and future growth potential.

“While there are clear signs of recovery, as we start to see food and drink price inflation continue to fall, we need the Government to work with the industry to help us stem the decline in the volumes of exports to the EU and further afield.

“We urge the Government to take note of our Trade and Investment Strategy, which details how Ministers can put food and drink at the heart of global Britain’s new independent trade policy. Defra bolstering its network of in-market trade attachés and the Food and Drink Export Council are positive steps that will support future growth.”