Exports of British food and drink were worth more than £10bn for the first time in 2010, after a sixth consecutive year in which overseas sales increased.
The value of food and drink exports, excluding alcoholic drinks, was £10.83bn last year, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the industry trade association, said today. The figure is an 11.4 per cent increase on 2009.
Jim Paice, the Government's food and farming minister, said the data suggested the food and drink industry was becoming an increasingly important contributor to the UK economy's success.
"The export sector is incredibly important to our producers, so the fact we now export more than £10bn 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," Mr Paice said.
Exports last year included £2.6bn worth of prepared food, up 10.3 per cent on 2009; £2.1bn of cereals and bakery, up 8.1 per cent; £1.5bn of meat, up 11.7 per cent; £1.3bn of fish and seafood, up 13.8 per cent; and £977m of dairy food, a 24.6 per cent rise on the previous year.
Ireland remains the biggest importer of British food and drink, with other European Union nations continuing to be key customers.
Hong Kong, the US and the Middle East also remain crucial markets, but the FDF said it was particularly pleased with improving sales to emerging economies.
Sales to South Africa were up by more than 60 per cent last year, China bought 29 per cent more British exports and demand from Israel rose 39 per cent.
Melanie Leech, the FDF's director-general hoped the sector's track record of success would persuade ministers to give it more support.
"These figures show our products are sought across the globe for their quality and great taste," she said.
"The food and drink industry must be at the heart of the UK's strategy for economic growth... to ensure that we maximise the economic potential of our sector and ensure we play our part in contributing to global food security."
24 per cent rise in dairy products to £977m
13 per cent rise in fish and seafood to £1.3bn
11 per cent rise in meat to £1.5bn
10 per cent rise in prepared foods including soup, sauces and ice cream to £2.6bn
8 per cent rise in cereals and bakery to £2.1bn