British food exports are up on pre-pandemic levels for the first time, according to new figures from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Overall, exports of UK food and drink products were worth £5.3bn globally in the first quarter of 2022, a rise of almost 31% on the same period in 2021.

Exports to both European and major non-EU markets were both up with the former rising 45% in Q1, to £3bn. This compares to sale to non-EU markets to include the US, Australia, Canada and Japan, which incrased by 16.2% to £2.3bn.

Such improvements fall on the back of two challenging years for food exports due to the impacts of Brexit and Covid, which in 2021 saw sales drop 13% on 2019 figures and 4% on 2020.

Exports to Canada improved the most by 26% on pre-pandemic levels, while imports of mostly ingredients used by UK manufacturers were up 5%.

India was another major importer, buying £172.5m worth of food and drink and particularly agricultural goods, with British exports increasing 25% against 2019 levels as a result. The Food and Drink Federation believe there is also major opportunities for increased sales to India with the country's growing middle class and growing demand for organic, fortified and ready-to-eat packaged food.

The FDF expects further growth in food and drink exports with Japan, Australia and New Zealand in the coming years but improving the implementation of the UK-EU trade agreement, remains key.

Head of international trade at FDF, Dominic Goudie, welcomed the figures.

“Trade plays a key role in boosting the UK economy, with high exports ensuring food and drink companies can thrive and imports offering shoppers in the UK a wide range of quality products at prices they can afford.

“This is particularly important now, at a time of soaring costs to businesses and consumers, that the UK utilises trade as deflationary weapon.”