What does Brexit mean for food exports?

February 09, 2018

Brexit and the food industry

As the countdown to Brexit continues, many questions on how the deal will play out remain. None more so than for the food industry.

But one thing remains certain – as one door closes, another door opens.

Food and drink is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector and a major exporter of goods, particularly the frozen food sector. And the latest statistics for 2017 show that both EU and non-EU exports of British-made goods are up.

So whilst politicians are still to hammer out exactly whether it’ll be a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, the figures speak for themselves. Countries inside and outside the EU still want to trade with the UK.

Indeed, the USA is currently our top trading partner, whilst Australia was the first to ask for a free trade deal following the election result. China is also reported to be keen to strike up a trade deal with Britain.

Why export your product?

That means there is a huge opportunity for food producers to sell their products all over the world. Whilst it may seem daunting – particularly if your company has never exported before – there are huge benefits to trading overseas.

One of the most obvious reasons is the opportunity to increase sales with a broader market base. That broader market also offers stability in a time of great uncertainty regarding EU trade. Or to put it simply, helps to prevent you putting all your eggs in one basket.

How is food exported?

Everything from chocolate, salmon, cheese and beef (as both ingredients and value-added products) are bought by countries across the globe. But how do they get there?

The EU single market meant most goods could be sent to member states without special customs documentation. Hundreds, if not thousands, of trailers of cargo, at all temperature regimes, leave Dover every day and we’ve been doing this for our customers for years. It remains to be confirmed how that process will change in light of Brexit but we’re confident we, and the rest of the UK, will be able to adapt quickly.

Despite the question marks, one thing we know for sure, is that non-EU trade makes up the majority of UK exports and that will only expand in the future. Innovations like the Yiwu to London railway line, a direct freight line from China to the UK which opened last year, are proof of that.

What next for food exports?

Outside the EU, many major markets (The USA, China, Hong Kong) require export licenses. These ensure food and other exported products meet the destination country’s import standards. Because of that, many businesses choose to work with a partner who will take care of everything from cold storage, to product assembly and logistics. This means they are able to go straight into their chosen market rather than go through the long, complicated and expensive process of becoming approved for direct export.

In this new post-Brexit era, expertise and proper licensing and technical knowledge are essential and they’re servicing we’re seeing a large increase in demand for.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. If ever there was a time to plan for the future of your business, it is now.