Saturday 25th January 2020
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Food & drink producers 'forge ahead' helped by export growth

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The food and drink sector - the biggest industry in the East of England, accounting for around a sixth of the local economy - has emerged as a key growth driver in the region helped by a dramatic growth in overseas sales, particularly to the US and Asia. According to a new report from Make UK and Santander, Britain’s food and drink sector continues to ignore the uncertain political and economic climate and is ‘forging ahead at home and abroad’. Overseas food & drink sales from the UK have risen by just under a quarter in the last two years. Although the EU still accounts for just under two thirds of exports worth £13.9 billion, the rest of the world has seen significant growth. Sales to Asia & Oceania are up by 295% in the last twenty years and by 260% to the US. However, the UK still imports food and drink worth £46 billion compared to exports worth £23 billion. The report also highlights the rise of online food and drink shopping in the UK which outstrips anywhere else in Europe. Charlotte Horobin, region director for Make UK in the East of England, said: “The food and drink sector continues to benefit from the British public’s desire to eat, drink and be merry. Despite the economic and political uncertainty the sector seems to be shielded from the difficulties experienced elsewhere and is driving hard for growth in the UK and overseas. Despite growth in the rest of the world however, the EU remains the dominant market for exports of food and drink. As such, it is vital that frictionless trade and fast and easy access continues in any post Brexit agreement if the remarkable growth pattern of the sector is to be maintained.” Overall, sales in the food & drink sector rose to £85.6 billion in 2018, up by 7.6% since 2016 and employment in the sector has risen by 5.3% to 440,000, a 15-year high.

Separately, Woodforde’s is investing £1million in a new bottling and canning line at its brewery in Woodbastwick in Norfolk and is planning to grow overseas and sell its beer in Scandinavia, the USA and Russia in the next 12 months. The new facility means the brewery will become become self-sufficient and can avoid transporting its beer around the country for bottling and canning. Other smaller local breweries will also be able to use the facility.