Wednesday, 30 June 2021
By Kat Jack and Chris Gooderham
The turbulence of the pandemic and EU exit has hit both imports and exports of Cheddar, but one thing has improved – the trade balance. With imports taking a bigger hit than exports, our cheddar trade with the EU for January-April had a 470 tonne surplus. Though small, this is the first multi-month surplus for UK-EU cheddar trade for more than 20 years*.
If we include non-EU trade, then the surplus gets even bigger, with 7.4k tonnes more Cheddar exported than imported in the Jan-Apr period. Although we export Cheddar around the world, we import it from Europe almost exclusively. We did also see a surplus for the same 4 months of 2020, of 4.0k tonnes, which was driven by non-EU exports.
This year, trade has been lower on both sides. Imports of Cheddar are down 47% for Jan-Apr at 12.2k tonnes. Exports of Cheddar to just the EU are down 39% at 12.7k tonnes, while total Cheddar exports are down 28% at 19.6k tonnes.
Although in 2020 we started with a Cheddar trade surplus, we still ended with a trade deficit for the year as a whole. Partly because there was a big influx of Cheddar in December 2020, just before we exited the EU. We’ll have to wait and see whether we maintain the surplus this year.
The historic trend shows that our trade deficit has been steadily falling over the last decade. This has been driven predominantly by increasing exports, while imports have been comparatively steady. Although EU exit has added complications to exports, this will hopefully become just a bump in the long term growth in UK Cheddar exports.
*Currently available HMRC data goes back to 2000
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