Fewer food products crossing the Channel

Quality inspection of red peppers
© Hollandse Hoogte / Flip Franssen
In the period January-August 2021, Dutch exports of meat, dairy, fish, and fruit and vegetables to the United Kingdom fell by 8.1 percent year-on-year and stood at 2.2 billion euros. Simultaneously, total Dutch exports of such products grew by 5.4 percent. This reduced the UK’s share in Dutch exports of food products from 8.7 to 7.6 percent. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on provisional figures on goods trade published along with the latest edition of the CBS Internationalisation Monitor.

In the period January-August 2021, fresh food exports to the UK declined in value by 193 million euros year-on-year. Half of these exports consisted of fruit and vegetables. In the first eight months of 2021, Dutch exporters sold 1.1 billion euros worth of fruit and vegetables to customers in the UK. This is 14 percent less compared to the same period in 2015. In the same period, the total value of fruit and vegetable exports from the Netherlands grew by 34 percent. Likewise, the value of meat, dairy and fish exports to the UK showed a similar downward trend.

Exports of fresh food products to the UK, January-August
JaarFruit and vegetables (million euros)Meat (million euros)Dairy (million euros)Fish (million euros)
* provisional figures

UK has become a less important market for Dutch perishables

In January-August 2015, the year before the referendum on Brexit, the UK was holding a share of 11.5 percent in Dutch exports of fresh food products. This made the UK the second-largest export destination for such products. In the meantime, the UK share has declined to 7.6 percent. This has put the UK in fourth place among the top export destinations, after the neighbouring countries (Germany and Belgium) and France. Vice versa, the UK also supplied far fewer goods which depend on fast logistic handling, including fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and fish. In the first eight months of 2021, Dutch companies imported 281 million euros worth of perishables from the UK. This is almost half of the value imported in 2020.

UK share in exports and imports of fresh food products, January-August
* provisional figures

More tomatoes but fewer peppers, cucumbers, onions and pears

Among the perishables, the most important fruit and vegetable exports to the UK are fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions and pears. These five types of produce were good for approximately two thirds of all fresh fruit and vegetable exports to the UK. In January-August 2021, the export value of fresh tomatoes stood at 169 million euros, i.e. 2 percent more than in 2020. On the other hand, UK-bound exports of peppers, cucumbers, onions and pears declined in value.

Cheese exports were slightly lower in value than one year previously at 68 million euros. Exports of fresh beef were halved, while fresh pork exports increased in value by approximately a quarter. The export growth was entirely on account of higher prices for fresh pork. The fresh pork and beef originated from livestock raised in the Netherlands.

Now that the UK is no longer a member of the EU, Dutch exporters have to consider various non-tariff measures and inspections, aside from longer transit times. As of 1 January 2021, when the UK was officially excluded from the common market of the EU, various customs formalities have become necessary. Aside from customs declarations or declarations of origin, exporters of fresh vegetable and animal products have had to include health certificates with each shipment.

Exports of fresh food products to the UK, January-August
Product2021* (million euros)2020 (million euros)2019 (million euros)2015 (million euros)
*provisional figures

Internationalisation Monitor: Exogenous shocks

The latest edition of the CBS Internationalisation Monitor focuses on the coronavirus crisis and Brexit. How would goods trade have developed if these exogenous shocks had not occurred? How has the business community been dealing with these shocks? Which traders have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus crisis and/or Brexit and which internationally operating companies have recovered from them? What are the effects of the new bilateral trade agreement with the UK on Dutch goods flows to and from the country and the cost of any import duties?