Despite continued uncertainty relating to Brexit and future exports, food and drink sales from the UK have increased by 8.3% to £6.2bn, with the bulk of that increase from Scotland.

HMRC export stats show Scottish food and drink exports were valued at £4.9bn, up £525m (12%) since the same period last year, with fish, beef, lamb, cheese, shortbread etc, accounting for £1.3bn, up £156m (14%).

Exports of fish and seafood do nevertheless remain Scotland’s most valuable export making up more than half of all food shipments in the first nine months.

Looking at the bigger picture, UK sales to non-EU countries rose by 13.1% in the first nine months of 2019 according to HMRC trade statistics, with exports to China – the UK’s seventh largest trading partner – rising a massive £64.6m over the past 12 months.

Unsurprisingly, China is emerging as one of the most significant export markets with the top UK products exported in the past nine months of 2019 including meat at 131.2%, fish and seafood at 3.6% and spirits 35.5%. Some 17% of food and drink sales to China were branded products.

In contrast, sales of branded goods to the EU were down 2.1% in the first nine months of 2019 and down 3.2% in the third quarter, which according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is due to ongoing uncertainty around future trading between the UK and EU.

Meanwhile, the UK’s high standards and reputation for top quality red meat and particularly beef, has helped bolster sales to China which are estimated to be worth around £230m over the next five years. As it is, export figures show that £7.6m of UK beef has already been exported since the conclusion of the UK-China agreement in June.

However, increasing such sales are dependant on the continued funding of an agriculture and food counsellor, according to the FDF.

“This is the fourth consecutive year of food and drink export growth in Q3,” said Gavin Darby, president of the FDF. “While the overall value of UK exports across all industries has declined year-to-date, food and drink has shown great resilience to buck that trend, delivering growth of 6.3% on 2018 already.

“At the same time, there remains significant untapped growth potential for UK food and drink exports.

"If we are to build on recent successes, the next Government must ensure we have a dedicated future trade policy for food and drink which recognises our industry’s unique ability to deliver jobs and growth in every UK community," said Mr Darby.

Scotland’s red meat producer, Scotbeef has also posted a rise in turnover and profits in it’s latest round of accounts for the year ending February 24, 2019 despite ‘very challenging export markets.’

Although beef prices were significantly higher in the year ending February 24, 2019 – compared to what they have been since – Scotbeef reported a 6.8% rise in turnover from £303m at February 24, 2018 to £323m. Operating profit rose from £5,303,000 to £5,839,000

The accounts also highlight a 71% increase in the firm’s pre-tax profits from £526,000 to £900,000, with turnover up by 6.5% from £57.69m to £61.4m.

Accounts for parent company JW Galloway, which owns Scotbeef Inverurie, Vivers Scotlamb and Scotbeef, reveal a boost in turnover and pre-tax profits for the same period too. Turnover was up 5% to £367.8m, from £349.5m the year before. This was against a 3% increase in pre-tax profits to £8.4m, from £8.1m.

The bulk of sales were in the UK – up to £330.9m from £308.2m – with sales to Europe down 10% to £36.89m.

In his report, Mr Galloway said Brexit uncertainty had made export markets “very challenging”.

It will be interesting to see what company profits will be posted for the year ending February 24, 2020 too when the prices paid to beef farmers this year have been the lowest since 2012 ...