Brexit Boosts Belgian Wine Re-Exports to UK Amid Overall Market Decline

Belgium's Wine Re-Exports to UK Soar Despite Domestic Slump


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2023 proved to be a tough year for wine imports in Belgium, marked by a notable drop in both value and volume. According to Belgian Customs, the total value of Belgium's wine imports decreased by 9.8%, settling at €1.1738 billion. Simultaneously, the volume of wine imports fell by 10.8% to 302.9 million liters. This translates to a drop of €127.5 million and 36.5 million liters compared to the previous year. Yet, despite this decline, the average price per liter saw a modest rise of 1.1%, reaching an all-time high of €3.88 per liter.

Belgium plays a critical role not just as a consumer market but also as a key intermediary or distributor for wines across Europe. Approximately 47% of the wine imported into Belgium is re-exported, primarily to the United Kingdom. This re-export trend has been significantly influenced by Brexit, driving up wine sales from Belgium to the UK to 100 million liters annually over the past three years.

Wine imports fell across all categories in both value and volume. Packaged wine, which constitutes the largest portion of Belgian imports, led the decline with a 13.5% drop in volume and a 10.7% fall in value. Despite this, its average price increased by 3.2%, reaching €4.32 per liter. Sparkling wine, the second most imported category, also saw a decrease of 8.9% in volume and 8.3% in value, although its average price inched up by 0.7% to €5.80 per liter.

Bulk wine and bag-in-box (BiB) formats also experienced reductions. Bulk wine imports fell by 3.8% in volume and 7.3% in value, with the average price dropping by 3.6% to €1.08 per liter. BiB imports dropped by 8.2% in volume and 8.9% in value, with an average price of €1.55 per liter.

Key Suppliers Face Challenges

France maintained its position as Belgium's primary wine supplier, but it too faced significant declines. In 2023, Belgium imported 100.7 million liters of French wine, a 7.6% decrease from 2022, amounting to €590.9 million in value, down 9.6%. These figures are the lowest recorded since the start of the century.

Italy, the second largest supplier, also saw a downturn with a 10% drop in volume and an 8% decrease in value, totaling 60.6 million liters and €195.2 million, respectively. The average price of Italian wine rose by 2.5%, hitting €3.22 per liter, the highest since 2019.

Spain, ranking third among suppliers, recorded a 7.7% drop in volume, with 35.5 million liters imported, and a slight 0.9% increase in value, reaching €94.8 million. The average price of Spanish wine jumped by 9.3%, achieving a record €2.71 per liter.

Long-term Trends and Strategic Importance

Historically, wine imports in Belgium have shown a trend of growth in value (+2.2% CAGR) that outpaced growth in volume (+0.7% CAGR), reflecting an overall increase in the average price of imported wines. However, 2023 marked a deviation from this trend, with reductions across all wine import categories.

Belgium continues to play a pivotal role as a wine distributor within Europe, especially to the United Kingdom, a trend magnified by Brexit. Despite the reductions in 2023, the Belgian market remains a strategic hub for wine distribution across the continent.

The Belgian wine market in 2023 was characterized by a general decrease in imports, both in value and volume, accompanied by a rise in the average price per liter. France, Italy, and Spain remain the top suppliers, although all recorded declines in their export figures to Belgium. This dynamic, coupled with Belgium's role as a key distributor in Europe, particularly to the UK, underscores the complexities and shifting patterns in the global wine trade influenced by economic and political factors like Brexit.

As we look towards the future, the resilience of the Belgian wine market and its strategic importance in the European distribution network will likely continue to shape its import trends. Whether these trends rebound or further shift will depend on various factors, including global economic conditions, consumer preferences, and geopolitical changes.

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