The value of UK exports shipped by air via Heathrow has increased 9.7% over a 12-month period as vaccines for medicine experienced almost 100% growth and Chinese demand for UK products continued to grow strongly.

New data has revealed over £7 billion worth of British exports travelled to China via Heathrow between August 2014 and July 2015, representing a 117% increase on the previous 12 months and over 15% of total UK export goods via Heathrow by value. [The data will have come from Heathrow itself].

The research has been shared by Heathrow to celebrate British Export Week this week. The airport claimed that the figures indicate that if Heathrow had unconstrained capacity, the value of Britain’s exports to China via the airport would overtake the US as the biggest destination within two years. Asian nations already make up four of the top five UK export destinations by value.  [And the value of the imports??] 

Making up the top five, the US leads by value at £14 billion, with China £7.6 billion, Hong Kong – £4.5 billion, United Arab Emirates £4 billion, and India £1.9 billion.  [Value of what? Badly written to be ambiguous]. 

Although vaccines for human medicine are the UK’s sixth most valuable export via Heathrow, they have risen by 97% and 87%, respectively, over the previous two years – partly as a result of recent world health crises.

As the biggest port in the UK by value of goods, Heathrow stressed it had played an important role in exports and recently announced a proposed blueprint plan to develop its cargo facilities and overhaul its processes and people and grow UK cargo volumes via a £180 million investment over 15 years. “This will support the UK government’s drive to hit £1 trillion worth of UK exports by 2020,” the company said. [What Heathrow was not saying was that its tonnage of air freight has barely increased for years.  It was only 1.76% higher in 2014 than in 2010.  Link ]

It listed the top five UK Export commodities by value via Heathrow as: Precious metals (£26 billion); Aircraft turbojets (£3.3 billion); Jewellery (£3 billion); Medicaments (£2.8 billion); Paintings and Drawings (£2.4 billion).

Other highlights of the research include: That over 345,000 tonnes of British produce was exported through Heathrow from August 2014 to September 2015. Precious metals (£26 billion) are the UK’s most valuable export travelling via Heathrow, followed by aircraft turbojets (£3.5 billion) and jewellery (£3 billion) – “demonstrating the UK’s reputation for quality manufacturing and engineering”.  [Again, no mention of how much was imported]. 

The value of Jewellery exported via Heathrow has increased 18% over the past two years, while paintings and drawings have also registered growth of 60% in the last year alone.

Fresh Salmon is the UK’s number one export by weight via Heathrow, with 46,000 tonnes exported in the most recent 12-month period, the same weight as 230 blue whales. Books and Brochures are the UK’s second-largest export by weight via Heathrow with over 20,000 tonnes exported in the 12 months leading up to July 2015; the equivalent to around 1,600 double-decker buses.  [Why do books and brochures need to be air freighted? They are not perishable. They are not specially high value. They could go by sea]. 

Overcoats and raincoats are one of the biggest growth exports by weight via Heathrow, with a 60% growth on 2014 figures, highlighting the continued growth of the British fashion and design sector. [Why do overcoats and raincoats need to be air freighted? They are not perishable. They are not specially high value. They could go by sea.  Yet another example of the highly environmentally damaging impacts of the fashion industry]. 

To further celebrate Export Week, Heathrow has partnered with UK Trade and Investment and its ‘Exporting is Great’ campaign to create a unique Export Café. The installation is on site at Heathrow Terminal 5 departures until Tuesday 17 November and showcases 25 of the UK’s best exports – including a tasting menu comprised of produce exported through Heathrow, showcasing the best of UK food and drink that Britain shares with the world.

Responding to the figures, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) repeated its calls for the UK government to make a decision regarding the expansion of the UK’s biggest airport. In July 2015, the long-awaited final report from the Davies Commission concluded that Heathrow was the best option for expansion because of the economic benefits for the whole country, which included £147 billion in economic growth over the next 60 years [they always omit that the Commission, using its untested and highly controversial – much criticised – economic model, which exaggerates benefits, said “up to £147 billion – other figures show a benefit over 60 years of just £1.4 billion.] and the creation of 70,000 new jobs by 2050. In response to the report’s findings FTA urged government to make a quick decision on airport expansion in the southeast of England, but as yet no announcement has been made.

In support of a third runway at Heathrow, and echoing FTA’s call for progress at the Airport, CBI president Paul Drechsler has said that “decisive action” is needed and that ministers should “get on” with it.

Chris Welsh – FTA Director of Global and European Policy said:  “FTA is once again calling on government to make a decision as quickly as possible regarding the expansion of Heathrow. Despite the clear recommendation made four months ago in the Davies Commission Report for a third runway, a government decision has yet to be made.

“It is clear that other business leaders recognise the urgency of expansion at the airport.  Air freight is essential to the future success of the UK economy, and additional capacity with a third runway is critical to allow importers and exporters to access new emerging markets in Asia, South America and the Indian sub-continent. Heathrow is a world-class air cargo hub, and it is vital that is it able to expand to meet the demands of UK importers and exporters to enhance connectivity to emerging overseas markets.”  [At last a mention of the importers!  But naturally, no figures.] 

In 2014 FTA commissioned a report undertaken by York Aviation – focusing on the importance of air freight to the UK economy and airport capacity in the south east.  [York Aviation can always be relied up on to produce studies which show Heathrow expansion to be necessary. They have done many]. The findings of the report both confirmed Heathrow as a vital hub for air cargo and underlined that a failure to invest in new runway capacity would result in UK exporters and importers losing competitive edge to continental competitors with the real possibility of services transferring to airports on the continent.

Around 95% of air cargo is carried in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft; air freight accounts for nearly 40% of UK imports and exports by value and employs 39,000 people, most clustered around Heathrow – the UK’s main airport hub. It is critical for important sectors such as pharmaceuticals, high-end manufacturing and retailers, FTA said.