Finnish food exports are growing at a record rate, according to the assessment of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.
A food sector report published on Wednesday shows that exports in the food and beverage sector have shown promising growth this year. The export forecast for 2019 is 1.75 billion euros, which, if achieved, would represent a record high.
Products in particularly strong demand this year have included dairy products, oats, other foodstuffs and alcohol products. Countries where export growth has been visible include China, where there has been a particular demand for pork and powdered milk.
The value of food imports to Finland was triple the value of our exports at 4.6 billion euros in 2018. Many of the products being imported are not produced or manufactured in Finland. Government considers that, in order to reduce this trade deficit, it would be important to increase the added value of exports.
Entry into new markets, along with an increase in export volumes and prices, have contributed to an increase in the value of exports. Awareness of the growth potential available through exports has grown in the food and beverage sector.
New export companies have participated in the Food from Finland programme created by Business Finland and funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The food authorities and other promoter organisations have also significantly contributed towards the export growth.
A significant industry
According to preliminary figures for 2018, the total turnover of the food industry was around 11.2 billion euros, showing an increase of 4% on the previous year. The food industry employs some 38,000 people directly, and as many as 340,000 indirectly.
"Finnish consumers buy domestic, responsibly produced foods, which means the food industry will continue to be a very important sector in Finland. But in addition, Finnish products and raw materials are increasingly finding their way onto the plates and into the glasses of international consumers too," says Leena Hyrylä, Food Industry Sector Manager at the Southeast Finland ELY Centre.
Companies continue to seek growth
The sector barometer for the manufacture of food products indicates that small and middle sized enterprises (SMEs) in the food sector continue to be growth-driven.
More than half of the SMEs that responded said they were pursuing growth; 22% said they sought powerful growth, while 43% said they would tap into any growth opportunities available.
According to the barometer, SMEs in the food sector, especially in the beverage sector, were more growth-oriented than companies in comparable sectors.
An optimistic sector
SMEs in the food sector were more optimistic about the general outlook for the economy than other Finnish SMEs and those engaged in comparable sectors. However, expectations are down on the previous year.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment explained that the business environment is changing rapidly, placing a stronger focus on the consumer and on continued renewal. The food sector is influenced by current trends and themes such as climate change, demographic changes, scarce resources, digitalisation and technological advancement in general. Consumer awareness and expectations for products and food services are rising. Responsibility, wellbeing and domestic origin are rising trends.