British brewers are raising a glass to a sharp 6% rise in British beer exports in 2016, according to new figures published by HMRC.

There was an extraordinary 500% rise in exports to China, as British brewers capitalised on interest in British beer following pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping enjoying a beer with former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015.

BBPAExports to India also rose, by 417%, and exports to the EU showed solid growth of 5%. Overall, exports to non-EU nations rose by six per cent.

British beer is the UK’s third most valuable food and drink export, with a value of £584 million, an increase of £84 million on 2015. A total of 1.05 billion pints of beer are exported. Currently, 63% of Britain’s beer exports go to the European Union.

Although UK beer duty is not payable on exports, a high rate of beer duty acts as a real barrier to the investment needed to help foster further export growth. The BBPA is urging the government to reduce the beer duty burden currently faced by the sector and cancel the planned inflationary increase in duty in the Budget on March 8. Further financial support for overseas activity would also be warmly welcomed.

The BBPA is also developing an export strategy to support the government’s Food and Drink Action Plan, helping to chart a path for continued export success as Britain prepares to leave the EU. The BBPA’s new strategy will stress the need for trade deals post-Brexit, and the importance of a tariff-free trade deal with the EU, Britain’s largest export market, that does not generate additional red tape or barriers to trade for beer exporters.

Building on existing IT systems to continue to allow the efficient movement of beer in and out of the UK will also be critical in this regard. This, the BBPA argues, will help ensure that British exporters can continue to grow their European presence in light of strong recent growth.

The strategy will also focus on where industry and government can work together to further expand British beer exports. Throughout the strategy, there will be a continued focus on how the BBPA can support its members and the wider brewing industry.

Case studies: Charles Wells, Innis & Gunn

Bombardier beat drum

Tim Wilmot-Smith, of Bedford-based Charles Wells Brewery, said: “Charles Wells has been successfully exporting beer to Canada for over 25 years. In an ever-changing market, we have seen our two most popular brands, Wells Bombardier and Wells IPA, both achieving double digit growth.

“We have also launched Charlie Wells Dry Hopped Lager across Canada, after successful discussions with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the world’s largest liquor buyer, with support from the BBPA and UK Trade and Investment personnel.

“It’s important that, as a business, we can continue to invest in our products and our export activities to make the most of opportunities for British beer across the world. That’s why we’re supporting the BBPA’s calls on the Chancellor to support the beer industry at the Budget on March 8.”

Bob Hogg, international business development manager at Innis & Gunn, added: “China is one of the fastest-growing beer markets in the world and we are incredibly excited to introduce our unique range of quality craft beers at a time when there is significantly increasing demand in the category.

“Through in-market knowledge and learning, and developing our understanding of the emerging dynamics such as distribution channels, consumer tastes and the competitor landscape, our approach, in partnership with our importer and distributor Dxcel, will be tailored to fully realise the potential to grow our business in the market, ensuring the Innis & Gunn portfolio meets the needs of both trade and consumer.”