This is why food and drink businesses have bucked the gloomy exporting trend

Food and drink businesses bucked an otherwise gloomy trend during the first quarter of 2020 as supply chain disruption and efforts to combat coronavirus hit overseas sales of goods and services, according to the Lloyds Bank International Trade Index.

The index, compiled in partnership with IHS Markit, saw UK manufacturing exports fall for the fourth quarter in a row between January and March, at 46.8 for new manufacturing exports in Q1, down from 47.9 in Q4 (the fourth quarter) of 2019.

The sharpest fall occurred in March, when the index dropped from 47.8 in February to 43 in March, the fastest monthly downturn since 2012.

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An index reading above 50.0 indicates an increase in activity since the previous month and below 50.0 a decrease.

Exporters have faced disruption caused by the coronavirus

Food and drink was the only manufacturing sub-sector to show an improvement, with exports growing for the first time since Q2 (the second quarter) 2019 between January and March to 50.5.

The sector’s performance was underpinned by strong demand in key export markets, such as the US and Ireland, and the easing of global trade tensions from 2019, when higher US trade tariffs on European products, such as whisky, wine and cheese and uncertainty over the UK’s departure from the EU caused UK food and drink exports to fall.

In March, UK manufacturers experienced delivery delays on a scale last seen in 1998, with a supply chain pressure reading of 33.

Gwynne Master, managing director and global head of trade for Lloyds Bank Global Transaction Banking, said: “The China shutdown sent shudders through the global economy and complex global supply chains, with an unprecedented knock-on impact for UK exporters.

“Performance and good growth levels in the UK food and drink sector as well as the financial services industry in Q1 are sources of encouragement.”

“It is reassuring that China, one of the first major economies to gradually return to work, is showing signs of an economic recovery.

“We are closely observing supply chain pressures when movement restrictions are eased across Europe and the UK.”

She added: “Lloyds Bank has a crucial role to play, providing support to businesses to enhance cash and working capital solutions through trade solutions.

“We are committed to helping Britain trade, mitigating trade risk and enhancing liquidity now and in the months ahead.”

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