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UK machinery exports recover more quickly than imports

1 Dec 20 Official customs statistics reveal that the trade in UK construction and earthmoving equipment recovered in the third quarter of 2020 after a virus-afflicted second quarter.

Exports and imports both rebounded, but exports bounced higher.

In the third quarter of 2020 exports of UK equipment increased by 64% on a £ value basis, and 57% on a tonnage shipped basis compared with the previous quarter. This returned exports to similar levels to those seen in the first quarter of the year, before the first national lockdown, but still below 2018 and 2019 levels.

By contrast, imports showed a more modest recovery in Q3, and remained below the levels seen in the first quarter of the year. The value of imports increased by 26% in Q3 compared with Q2, and the tonnage shipped was up 25%. However, this left both measures at around 24% below the levels seen in Q1 this year, and below the quarterly levels of imports seen in the last three years.

More than half of the UK’s exported construction and earthmoving equipment now goes to the Europe Union. Last year, exports to EU countries accounted for 46% of total exports on a £ value basis, but this increased to 52% in the first nine months of the year.

In 2019, the USA accounted for 27% of UK export shipments on a £ value basis, but has only reached 21% in the first three quarters of this year.

The UK remained a significant net exporter of construction and earthmoving equipment in the first three quarters of 2020, with exports (£1,186m) more than double the level of imports (£887m).

In the first three quarters of 2020, imports were 41% down on 2019 on a £ value basis, and 39% down on a tonnage shipped basis. Imports were expected to be a little down in 2020 anyway, having hit a cyclical peak in 2018 and 2019, but they fell to their lowest quarterly levels since at least 2013, when the data began to be recorded.  

£ million 2018 2019 2020 Q1-Q3
Imports from EU 989 1,104 582
% share of total imports 61 64 66
Exports to EU 1,545 1,606 974
% share of total exports 44.5 46 52

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MPU
MPU

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