Food and drink exports surge

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The Independent Online

UK food and drink exports broke through the £10 billion barrier for the first time during 2010, figures showed today.

Exports of food and non-alcoholic drinks increased for the sixth consecutive year to £10.83 billion, 11.4% up on 2009's level, according to trade body the Food and Drink Federation.

The increase came despite the economic problems in Ireland, which continued to be the biggest importer of UK food and drink.

France, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain also continued to be popular destinations for UK produce, while there was strong growth in countries that are further afield, with exports to Hong Kong soaring by 36.3%, while those to the United States and United Arab Emirates were up by 28.9% and 22.7% respectively.

The FDF said it was "highly encouraged" by the growth in exports to new countries that were outside the top 20, with South Africa recording a 60.7% increase, while exports to China rose by 28.5%, including a massive 1633% jump in dairy products.

Dairy was the top performing sector for exports to all countries, rising by 24.6% to £977.1 million, while fish and seafood rose by 13.8% to £1.33 billion and meat was up 11.7% to £1.46 billion.

There was also a 10.3% increase in prepared foods, such as soups, sauces and ice cream, and exports of cereals and baking products rose by 8.1%.

FDF director general Melanie Leech said: "This is excellent news for British food exporters and for the British economy.

"The food and drink industry must be at the heart of the UK's strategy for economic growth, and we look forward to working in partnership with the Minister and his colleagues in Defra, BIS and across Government to ensure that we maximise the economic potential of our sector."

Food and Farming Minister Jim Paice said: "This is excellent news - showing Britain that our food and drink industries are real areas of strength and growth at the same time as showing the world how good our food is.

"The export sector is incredibly important to our producers, so the fact that we now export more than £10 billion worth of food and drink shows that discerning consumers across the globe value what we produce and that this vital sector is playing its part in Britain's recovery."