Economics: UK food imports from the EU fell in January

Date : 15 March 2021

The first data for January 2021 shows that UK food and drink imports from the EU fell sharply in January 2021, when compared with preceding months and with the same month in 2020.

This data should be treated with caution, since it is “provisional” only and may change. There are also some practical challenges with gathering official statistics during the Coronavirus emergency.

The steep drop in imports is notable nevertheless, especially since non-EU imports did not see a similar fall in inbound traffic – this event is likely to be associated with EU Exit.

Historical data shows peaks in food and drink imports in the weeks before EU Exit deadlines – March 2019, October 2019 and finally December 2020. This reflects precautionary “stock-building” by businesses.

Steep drops follow, which presumably indicated the running-down of accumulated stocks. The slump seen in January 2021 seems especially severe, however.

This may be due to the usual rundown, amplified by bad weather in the English Channel and – according to anecdotal evidence – deliberate avoidance of Cross Channel trade for fear of administrative disruption.

A reduction in food traffic from Continental Europe to Ireland (via the GB “land bridge”) may also have contributed to lower inbound movements at UK ports.

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