FOOD and drink exports have plummeted by more than £62 million per week in just three years, House of Commons Library analysis shows.

The SNP say the seven-figure fall is evidence of just how hard Brexit is hitting UK trade – but the UK Government claims the pandemic is to blame.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday National, Edinburgh North and Leith MP Deidre Brock (below) said: “Brexit has already cost Scotland billions of pounds and analysis shows it will continue to hit our economy, cutting Scotland’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product] by up to £9 billion by 2030 compared to EU membership.

“Our food and drink industry is vital to Scotland’s economy.

“It employs hundreds of thousands up and down the country and our salmon, whisky and beef are famous across the globe, with Scotch whisky accounting for around a fifth of the UK’s total food and drink exports. But the sector has suffered enormously from this Tory government’s actions.”

The National:

The analysis reveals that overall food exports were worth £210m per week in January-May 2018, but just £147.6m in January-May 2021, marking a fall of £62.4m.

Breaking this down further, there’s a significant slip for two of Scotland’s flagship products.

UK fish and seafood exports, which include salmon, are down by £6.2m per week over the period, with whisky sales falling £5m.

A major bite has also been taken out of the meat and dairy trade. After years of investment and expansion, the food and drink industry has become a major contributor to the Scottish economy. Worth an annual £14bn, it accounts for one in five manufacturing jobs. Around 115,400 people are employed across the country’s 18,850 related businesses.

These firms are a vital component of overall UK trade, with Scotch whisky, which cannot be produced anywhere else, accounting for 21% of all UK food and drink exports.

The analysis is revealed as the shortage of haulage drivers continues to put pressure on producers.

And it comes a day after The Herald reported a 5.5% decrease in exports since the 2016 Brexit vote.

The SNP told the paper it will cut Scotland’s GDP by up to £9bn by 2030, compared with the potential figure under EU membership.

At the start of the year, food firms were hamstrung by the new customs regime that came into force in January, following the eleventh-hour withdrawal deal agreed between UK ministers and their European counterparts.

The additional paperwork burden caused headaches for companies, with some cargoes unloaded in European ports over missing documents and other administrative issues. Increased sanitary checks were also a challenge and some producers told how their goods were left to perish in containers in the midst of January’s exports jam.

READ MORE: Food shortages are due to Brexit not Covid pandemic, industry says

This week, Dominic Goudie of the Food and Drink Federation revealed that organisation’s own sums added up to a “disastrous loss of £2bn in sales to the EU” and called for “additional specialist support”.

The House of Commons Library analysis also hones in on the shift between sales to the EU in the first quarter of 2019 and the same period this year. It shows whisky exports fell £10.4m per week; cheese exports dropped £5.1m; milk and cream exports went down £2.6m; salmon exports slipped £1.3m; and lamb and mutton exports dipped £500,000 a week.

Brock, the SNP’s Defra spokesperson, said “fishing communities, farmers and businesses across Scotland [are] losing millions of pounds in trade as a result of Brexit” and risk being hit further in future Tory trade deals, such as that with Australia.

She went on: “There is no evidence of any meaningful protections to prevent Scottish farmers being undercut on the price and standards of beef, lamb and other produce.

“Yet again, the Tories are throwing Scottish farmers under the Brexit bus – just as they sold out Scotland’s fishing industry.

“It is increasingly clear that independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe from the long-term damage of Boris Johnson’s hard Tory Brexit deal, which has been disastrous.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The pandemic and restrictions across Europe have affected trade and depressed demand, so it is too early to draw firm conclusions on the long-term impact of our new trading relationship with the EU and the rest of the world.

“We have secured deals with countries that account for 64% of UK trade – worth £744bn – and we are pursuing ambitious trade deals with countries like Australia, Japan and New Zealand as well as the £9 trillion Indo-Pacific free trade area.

"We are supporting businesses in Scotland to seize fantastic opportunities through free-trade deals and reductions in trade barriers. Earlier this year we secured a suspension on retaliatory US tariffs on Scottish whisky, and through our new trade deal with Australia, distillers will also see the removal of 5% tariffs.”