The UK’s Top Food Imports And Where They Come From


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It’s no secret that the UK is a huge importer of food and drink, it’s not like we can grow exotic fruit in our allotments and we’re not exactly known for our vineyards!

Just how large scale our import demand is might still come as a surprise to you though, as it did to us when we carried out research on the top food and drink imports to the UK from 191 countries.

The import data for the first 6 months of 2018 was collected from HM Revenue & Customs and broken down into countries and categories. What it revealed was that we import a huge amount of food and drink from pretty much every country in the world.

From Botswanan beef to Vietnamese nuts, here’s our breakdown of the UK’s top food imports from around the world.

World Imports

The UKs total import figures of food and drink from around the world are staggering.

In the first half of 2018 alone, we imported £23,543,173,333 worth of consumable products. That’s twenty-three billion pounds.

These imports weighed 20,948,398 tonnes, which is as much as 3,491,399 average adult African elephants.

Looking at the data in more detail, however, gives us some even more astonishing facts and figures. We’ll give you some highlights below, and you can see the full table of top imports by country yourself at the bottom of this page.

European Imports

From Irish beef, French wine, and Swedish fish, we receive a variety of food and drink from our closest neighbours.

The biggest single product imports from countries on the continent were:

Country Item  Value (£)
Ireland Beef  £        425,701,163
France Wine  £        321,044,794
Denmark Pork  £        171,542,708
Netherlands Potatoes  £        155,382,953
Belgium Potatoes  £        115,471,030

Other highlights of the top individual items of food and drink imports that came from European countries include the £52 million worth of seeds we got from Romania, the £12 million worth of olives and capers from Greece, and £3000 worth of Liechtenstein wine.

American Imports

Zooming in on the Central American and Caribbean regions, we can explore which products we most commonly import from these countries, both mainland and islands.

Country Item  Value (£)
Costa Rica Bananas and plantains  £        50,349,542
Belize Sugar  £        24,676,073
Honduras Oil  £        18,093,033
Guatemala Pulses  £        12,167,530
Nicaragua Nuts  £          7,112,731

Several of the smaller islands also provide us with a surprisingly high value of food and drink, such as  £1.1 million worth of sugar imported from Guadeloupe and the British Virgin Islands’ £1.2 million worth of sweets.

African Imports

A closer look at Africa’s top exports to the UK shows that, although we don’t import any food or drinks from Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea, the rest of the continent is a large provider of daily stables such as coffee, fruit and chocolate.

Country Item Value (£)
Ivory Coast Cocoa products  £        126,486,658
South Africa Grapes  £        115,229,624
Kenya Tea and coffee  £          75,873,029
Ghana Cocoa products  £          58,054,261
Morocco Tomatoes  £          35,568,083

Oceania Imports

Looking at South East Asia and Oceania, we can see that a lot of oil comes from island nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea, while Australia and New Zealand provide a large quantity of wine.

Country Item  Value (£)
Thailand Processed meat  £  302,002,008
Australia Wine  £  175,604,889
New Zealand Wine  £  123,701,119
Vietnam Nuts  £    51,082,452
Papua New Guinea Oil  £    37,374,530

UK Fruit and Veg Imports

First off – fruit and veg. An essential part of all of our diets, we’d be lost without the wide array of fresh, frozen, and dried fruit and vegetables that are now available on our supermarket shelves year-round.

Where does it all come from though?

Well, a lot more of it comes from abroad than you might think. £5,440,656,736 worth of it in six months, to be precise.

This amount of fruit and veg came from all over the world, with almost a fifth (19%) of British fruit and veg imports coming from Spain, 11% being exported from the Netherlands and 5% coming from South Africa.

 

UK Meat Imports

Meat, another staple of the British diet, is also heavily imported. Chicken and beef especially come in from a host of different countries before being eaten in the UK.

Our primary exporters of chicken, of which we received £392,415,831 worth, were the Netherlands with 43%, Poland with 17%, and Ireland with 10%.

Making up for their bronze medal in chicken provisions though, Ireland were the clear winners when it came to exporting beef to the Britain, making up a whopping 67% of the value of our beef imports.

 

UK Cheese Imports

Surprisingly, Ireland’s export dominance continued on to cheese imports, beating out favourites such as France, Italy, and Cyprus. Of a total of £817,433,785 worth of cheese that came into the UK in the first half of 2018, £196,074,497, or 24%, of it was Irish.

The much more expected France followed Ireland with £109,828,010 and Italy were close behind with £104,852,199.

Some other strange statistics emerged from our cheese-based research, including that we import £143,824,569 worth of cheddar cheese (it doesn’t have to be made in Cheddar, England!) from abroad.

 

UK Beer Imports

Although the UK does have a thriving beer industry, with local breweries across the country and several national level manufacturers, we still get a lot of our beer from other shores.

Despite the prevalence of European brands like Carlsberg and San Miguel on our shelves, it’s actually Mexico who top our import list, with £51,934,573 worth of Mexican beer hitting our shores in the first half of 2018.

Ireland weren’t too far behind, however, with a total of £45,072,115 worth of beer coming from across the Irish sea.

 

UK Wine Imports

Possibly the least surprising of all of the food and drink category results we got from our data was from wine. The top 10 exporters of wine to the UK reads just like the signs in the supermarket wine aisle, with France, Australia, Italy, the USA, and New Zealand making up our top five.

What’s a little more surprising is that France’s contribution of £321,044,794 worth of vino was almost twice that of Australia’s £175,604,889.

 

Other UK Food and Drink Import Facts

  • We get more imported fish from Sweden than anywhere else in the world
  • Antarctica’s only export to the UK in the first half of 2018 was £7,911 worth of herbs and spices
  • Almost twice as much chocolate is imported from Germany as from Belgium
  • Spain are our biggest exporter of food and drink out of anywhere in the world, with a total import value of £1,028,207,497 in six months

 

Country Category Item
Afghanistan Cereals, grains and seeds Rice
Albania Drink Wine
Algeria Confectionary Cocoa products
Andorra Drink Wine
Angola Meat Fish (frozen)
Antarctica Ingredients Herbs and spices
Antigua and Barbuda Meat Chicken (frozen)
Argentina Ingredients Oil
Armenia Ingredients Oil
Australia Drink Wine
Austria Drink Water
Azerbaijan Drink Spirits
Bahamas Ingredients Extracts, concentrates, residues, preparations
Bahrain Ingredients Oil
Bangladesh Meat Seafood (frozen)
Barbados Drink Spirits
Belarus Ingredients Extracts, concentrates, residues, preparations
Belgium Fruit and Vegetables Potatoes
Belize Ingredients Sugar
Benin Fruit and Vegetables Nuts
Bermuda Drink Wine
Bhutan Ingredients Herbs and spices
Bolivia Fruit and Vegetables Nuts
Bosnia-Herzegovina Drink Water
Botswana Meat Beef
Brazil Meat Processed meat
Bulgaria Cereals, grains and seeds Seeds
Burkina Faso Fruit and Vegetables Guavas
Burundi Drink Tea and coffee
Cambodia Cereals, grains and seeds Rice
Cameroon Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
Canada Misc Soya beans
Canary Islands Fruit and Vegetables Tomatoes
Cayman Islands Baked Goods Bread
Chile Fruit and Vegetables Grapes
China Meat Fish (frozen)
Colombia Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
Comoros Ingredients Herbs and spices
Congo Drink Tea and coffee
Costa Rica Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
Croatia Meat Processed meat
Cuba Drink Spirits
Cyprus Dairy Cheese
Czech Republic Confectionary Sweets
Denmark Meat Pork
Djibouti Drink Tea and coffee
Dominica Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
Dominican Republic Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
Ecuador Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
Egypt Fruit and Vegetables Oranges
El Salvador Ingredients Sugar
Equatorial Guinea Fruit and Vegetables Guavas
Estonia Cereals, grains and seeds Seeds
Ethiopia Drink Tea and coffee
Falklands Islands and dependencies Meat Sheep (frozen)
Faroe Islands Meat Fish
Fiji Drink Water
Finland Cereals, grains and seeds Seeds
France Drink Wine
Gabon Ingredients Herbs and spices
Gambia Fruit and Vegetables Guavas
Georgia Drink Wine
Germany Fruit and Vegetables Tomatoes
Ghana Confectionary Cocoa products
Gibraltar Ingredients Extracts, concentrates, residues, preparations
Greece Fruit and Vegetables Olives and capers
Grenada Confectionary Cocoa products
Guadeloupe Ingredients Sugar
Guatemala Fruit and Vegetables Pulses
Guinea Fruit and Vegetables Guavas
Guinea Bissau Fruit and Vegetables Nuts
Guyana Ingredients Sugar
Honduras Ingredients Oil
Hong Kong Ingredients Sauces
Hungary Fruit and Vegetables Sweetcorn
Iceland Meat Fish (frozen)
India Fruit and Vegetables Grapes
Indonesia Ingredients Oil
Iran (Islamic Republic of) Ingredients Sugar
Ireland Meat Beef
Israel Fruit and Vegetables Avocados
Italy Fruit and Vegetables Tomatoes
Ivory Coast Confectionary Cocoa products
Jamaica Drink Spirits
Japan Misc Sauces and preparations therefor
Jordan Fruit and Vegetables Cauliflower and broccoli
Kazakhstan Cereals, grains and seeds Seeds
Kenya Drink Tea and coffee
Kosovo Drink Water
Kuwait Ingredients Oil
Kyrgyz, Republic Fruit and Vegetables Dried Fruit
Laos Drink Beer
Latvia Cereals, grains and seeds Seeds
Lebanon Drink Wine
Lesotho Ingredients Flour
Libya Fruit and Vegetables Dates
Liechtenstein Drink Wine
Lithuania Meat Fish
Luxembourg Fruit and Vegetables Nuts
Macao Meat Fish (frozen)
Macedonia Dairy Ice Cream
Madagascar Ingredients Herbs and spices
Malawi Drink Tea and coffee
Malaysia Ingredients Oil
Maldives Meat Fish
Mali Fruit and Vegetables Guavas
Malta Confectionary Chocolate
Marshall Islands Meat Seafood
Martinique Misc Reeds (Animal feed)
Mauritania Ingredients Sugar
Mauritius Meat Fish
Mexico Drink Beer
Moldova, Republic of Drink Wine
Montenegro Fruit and Vegetables Blackberries
Montserrat Fruit and Vegetables Asparagus
Morocco Fruit and Vegetables Tomatoes
Mozambique Drink Tea and coffee
Myanmar Meat Fish (frozen)
Namibia Meat Beef
Nepal Ingredients Flour
Netherlands Fruit and Vegetables Potatoes
New Zealand Drink Wine
Nicaragua Fruit and Vegetables Nuts
Nigeria Confectionary Cocoa products
Norway Meat Fish (frozen)
Occupied Palestinian Territory Fruit and Vegetables Dates
Oman Cereals, grains and seeds Rice
Pakistan Cereals, grains and seeds Rice
Palau Meat Seafood
Panama Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
Papua New Guinea Ingredients Oil
Paraguay Meat Beef
Peru Fruit and Vegetables Avocados
Philippines Meat Fish
Poland Confectionary Chocolate
Portugal Fruit and Vegetables Tomatoes
Qatar Ingredients Oil
Reunion Meat Fish
Romania Cereals, grains and seeds Seeds
Russia Meat Fish (frozen)
Rwanda Drink Tea and coffee
Samoa Ingredients Oil
Saudi Arabia Fruit and Vegetables Dates
Senegal Fruit and Vegetables Sweetcorn
Serbia Fruit and Vegetables Raspberries
Seychelles Meat Fish
Sierra Leone Ingredients Oil
Singapore Confectionary Cocoa products
Sint Maarten Fruit and Vegetables Peppers
Slovakia Dairy Cheese
Slovenia Dairy Ice Cream
Solomon Islands Meat Fish
Somalia Fruit and Vegetables Lemons
South Africa Fruit and Vegetables Grapes
South Korea Misc Dried pasta
Spain Fruit and Vegetables Peppers
Sri Lanka Drink Tea and coffee
St Kitts and Nevis Drink Spirits
St Lucia Fruit and Vegetables Bananas and plantains
St Pierre and Miquelon Drink Tea and coffee
St Vincent and the Grenadines Fruit and Vegetables Artichokes
Sudan Misc Natural gum arabic
Surinam Meat Fish (frozen)
Swaziland Ingredients Sugar
Sweden Meat Fish
Switzerland Drink Tea and coffee
Syria Fruit and Vegetables Grapes
Taiwan Drink Spirits
Tanzania (United Republic of) Drink Tea and coffee
Thailand Meat Processed meat
Togo Fruit and Vegetables Nuts
Tonga Meat Seafood
Trinidad and Tobago Ingredients Extracts, concentrates, residues, preparations
Tunisia Fruit and Vegetables Dates
Turkey Fruit and Vegetables Sultanas
Uganda Fruit and Vegetables Peppers
Ukraine Cereals, grains and seeds Seeds
United Arab Emirates Ingredients Oil
United States Drink Wine
Uruguay Meat Beef
Uzbekistan Fruit and Vegetables Grapes
Vanuatu Confectionary Cocoa products
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Fruit and Vegetables Guavas
Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Nuts
Virgin Islands, British Confectionary Sweets
Zambia Fruit and Vegetables Pulses
Zimbabwe Fruit and Vegetables Pulses

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