UK sugar trade in February shows little sign of life post-Brexit

April 13, 2021

Overall, UK exports of goods bounced back in February 2021, according to data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on 13 April 2020, with exports of machinery particularly strong.

However UK trade in sugar remained minimal, the ONS data showed.

The volume of UK imports of sugar from the EU27 was markedly lower than at the same period last year. The total quantity of sugar imported from the EU27 into the UK in January and February 2021 was a mere 9,096 tonnes compared with 38,470 tonnes in Jan/Feb 2020, whilst imports of sugar from non-EU countries was 36,539 tonnes compared with 124,655 tonnes in the same period last year. The Jan/Feb 2021 imports total comprised on cargo of 30,000 tonnes of bulk raw sugar from the Kingdom of eSwatini, and quantities of 3,101 tonnes of sugar from Mauritius and 1,140 tonnes from Colombia.

The ONS data showed that the volume of UK exports of sugar in February was also minimal, with exports of Direct Consumption Raw Sugar to the EU27 almost ceasing altogether no doubt owing to UK/EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement which outlaws cumulation of origin where the finished product is the result of insufficient processing, e.g., packing, making sugar cubes or simple mixing (Article ORIG-7 (g) and (m)). The total quantity of sugar exported to the EU27 in January and February 2021 was a mere 637 tonnes compared with 17,198 tonnes in Jan/Feb 2020, whilst exports of sugar to non-EU countries was 2,322 tonnes compared with 11,194 tonnes in the same period last year.

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Sugar import prices into the UK appear to have risen by around 100 €/t CIF year-on-year, according to the ONS data, rising to an average across all qualities of sugar of 496 €/t CIF excluding outliers.

The ONS is at pains to warn that monthly data are erratic owing to the impact of the UK's exit from the EU after the transition period ended on 31 December 2020. In addition to the changes facing the UK after the transition period ended, England joined the rest of the UK in another national lockdown at the beginning of January 2021, which continued through February. The ONS also notes that the falls in the volumes of trade are also consistent with the unwinding of stocks, after businesses stockpiled in November and December 2020 in preparation for the end of the transition period.