Exports of fish and meat from the UK to the EU saw a dramatic dip in January compared with the previous year, compounding the chaos following the end of the Brexit transition period.
According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), among the hardest hit export foodstuffs were salmon, which saw a 98% dip from the year earlier; beef, which fell by 91.5%; and cheese which also declined 85.1%.
The UK's export market suffered a fall of £750m ($1bn) — a total 75.5% decline from the previous January, the FDF said.
The slump came as Brexit occurred on 1 January. Britain officially left the single market, meaning new customs checks and trading rules took effect.
Businesses have complained of huge disruption as a result of Brexit. Manufacturers union Make UK this month said three quarters of its members had experienced delays exporting since the turn of the year, while the Institute of Directors said on Thursday that 1 in 5 of its members had given up on trying to export to the EU.
The FDF said that stockpiling ahead of the transition period alongside the impacts of COVID-19 were contributing factors, however much of the fall is likely to be due to new non-tariff trade barriers and the collapse of "groupage movements" — type of shipping involves grouping your goods together with others — which shut out many SME exporters.
Exports to all EU member states fell, with a decline of more than 80% to key economies such as Germany and Ireland.
The FDF said that in January 2020, Ireland had been the UK's biggest market for exports, representing around a fifth of total food and drink exports. In January 2021, this figure stands at 5%.
The top nine markets which supply the overwhelming majority of EU sales of food and drink to the UK all fell, with the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany each down around a third.
The figures come following other damning calculations about Brexit's cost to Britain's exporters.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said earlier this month that exports to the EU fell by 40.7% in January 2021, equivalent to £5.6bn less trade with the bloc. The slump in exports was the main driver of a 19.3% fall in UK exports to the world at the start of the year.
Imports from the EU also suffered, declining by 28.8% or £6.6bn. The ONS recorded big declines in imports of cars, medicines and pharmaceuticals.