With food and drink exports reaching £22 billion in 2017, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has warned that any failure to secure continued access to trade deals could have “serious implications”.

Unveiling its latest export statistics, FDF highlighted that the UK currently exports £2.3 billion worth of food and drink to the around 60 countries with which the EU has secured preferential trade agreements, representing more than 10% of total food and drink exports.

Of these 60 countries, the top five export destinations for UK food were Canada, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico and Norway, with exports to South Korea having grown 51% since the deal entered into force in 2011.

In total, the EU27 and those markets with which the EU has trade agreements contributed over 70% of the UK’s food and drink export value, more than £15 billion, said FDF.

In the meantime, full year exports of food and drink were worth over £22 billion in 2017, up 9.7% on 2016.

Sales of branded food to non-EU markets also grew faster than those to the EU, rising by 16.6% versus 9.9% in 2017.

The US was the largest non-EU market for branded UK food and non-alcoholic drink followed by Australia.

China was the fastest growing market in the UK’s top 20 exports markets for branded goods, up 40.3% to £118.8 million and was highlighted as one of the top three markets that food and drink companies would like to target, according to FDF’s research.

FDF noted that with “little more than a year remaining until we leave the EU, it is essential for the future growth of UK food and drink that Government successfully delivers its plans for continued access to each of the EU’s trade deals”.

Ian Wright CBE, director general, FDF, commented: “These figures illustrate the continued strength of the UK food and drink industry and the global demand for our high-quality products. Brexit presents an opportunity to sell more of our fantastic food overseas, but in order to do that we must ensure that we have appropriate access to our largest trading partners in place once we’ve left the EU.”

The full report can be found on FDF’s exports page here.