According to the Food and Drink Federation, milk and cream sales to the EU fell by 96.4% in 2021 as a result of Brexit-related trade barriers. In fact, the new trading arrangement with Europe has cost exporters more than £1.1 billion since January 2021, when Britain left the customs union and single market.
Figures published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board also showed that in February 2020, just under 76,500 tonnes of milk and 901 tonnes of bulk cream were exported to Europe – compared to just 131 and 436 tonnes of milk and cream sent respectively in February 2021.
"[It is a] very clear indication of the scale of losses that UK manufacturers face in the longer-term due to new trade barriers with the EU," said Dominic Goudie, head of international trade FDF. “We set out a plan to mitigate these impacts by boosting support for exporters, and this was backed by the Trade and Agriculture Commission.“
Buttermilk and yogurt exports were also down 91%, comparing February 2021 with the same month a year ago, while butter exports plummeted by 89%, milk powder by 86%, whey by 83%, and cheese by 75%.
Experts have blamed extra paperwork and delays, which particularly impact fresh products with a short shelf life. Higher costs, as well as the need for additional preparation before items are packaged and shipped, are said to be discouraging European importers from purchasing British goods.
The industry has warned that the resulting collapse of “groupage” movements – where goods from different companies shipped to many locations are grouped on one lorry – is compounding the problem, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.
John Whitehead, Food & Drink Exporters Association (FDEA), stated, “Whilst some of this large drop can be put down to end of year stockpiling, significant business has been lost as a direct result of the additional bureaucracy, customs delays and costs of trading with the EU.”
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