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UK whisky exports nosedive by two thirds in January 2021 compared to previous year

UK exports of whisky fell by around £66.5 million in January 2021 compared to last year, according to new analysis of HMRC figures – a fall of nearly two thirds.

Speyside scotch whisky tasting on old dark wooden vintage table with barley grains close up

Whisky, the UK’s largest food and drink export, saw exports fall 63.1% in January 2021 to £38.9m, compared to £105.4m the previous year, analysis by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) found, making it the biggest loser of all food and drink exports.

The anslysis of the HMRC data found overall food and drinks exports were down significantly in the first month of the year on last year, with overall sales to the EU down by 75.5%. This represented around £0.75bn of sales. Other exports badly affected included salmon (down 98%) and beef (down 91.5%).

Part of the fall was attributed to the impact of Covid 19 and last year’s stockpiling ahead of the Brexit transition, however the FDF noted that the new non-tariff barriers faced by UK exporters had hit smaller exporter in particular, as ‘groupage movements’, which allowed hauliers to carry smaller consignments from different sellers, had virtually collapsed.

Imports of wine from the EU were also affected, falling 19.7% to £108.9m, down from £135.6m the previous year.

The FDF noted that the impact of the pandemic was likely to be a “major issue” in this, especially as much of the UK hospitality sector remains shuttered, and the effect of Brexit was likely to not been seen for another year.

“The phased implementation of border checks is likely to mean that the full impacts of the end of the transition on imports from the EU will not be seen until 2022,” the FDF said.

It follows ONS stats released earlier this month, which found that exports to the EU had nosedived by 40% between December 2020 and January 2021.

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