The industry body said first-half food and drink sales fell £2bn, because of Brexit trade barriers and staff shortages in the sector.
Food exporters have struggled with the extra paperwork and administrative costs that came into force on 1 January 2021, with companies required to document their products for trading standards, customs and health reasons before entry to the EU.
The FDF said food and drink exports in general to the EU were down 15.9% on the same period last year, and down by over a quarter (27.4%) compared to the first half of 2019.
Along with chocolate, sales of milk and cream to the EU are also significantly down in the past 18 months with exports of beef and cheese hit hardest.
The pandemic is also believed to impacted UK exports, after the shutdown of the hospitality sector across Europe also reduced demand for British products.
The FDF said the shortfall in EU exports could not be compensated for by the increased sales in the same period to non-EU countries, including China and Australia.
Dominic Goudie, Head of International Trade at the FDF, said: “The return to growth in exports to non-EU markets is welcome news, but it doesn’t make up for the disastrous loss of £2bn in sales to the EU. It clearly demonstrates the serious difficulties manufacturers in our industry continue to face and the urgent need for additional specialist support.”
He told the media the difficulties now facing British food and drinks manufacturers and farmers was compounded by the lorry driver and warehouse workers shortages, which are choking the supply chain.
A spokesperson for the Food & Drink Exporters Association said there was "growing evidence" the red tape that now faces exporters to the EU has led some businesses to move operations to the continent and forced European customers to look elsewhere for products.
Last month, ConfectioneryNews reported the German Confectionery Industry had witnessed a decline in exports to UK after Brexit.