Exports to the EU climbed 12.6% to reach £4.4bn. Double digit growth was recorded in deliveries to three EU countries: The Netherlands (up by 27.8%), Germany (up by 27.8%) and Belgium (up by 48.5%).
The best performing categories were dairy, (up by 30.5% to £607.2M), ice cream (up by 40.1%) and fresh fish (up by 26.1%).
Meat exports also showed strong growth climbing by 18.4% to reach a value of £819.5M in the first six months of this year compared with the same period of last year.
Peter Hardwick, head of trade development at the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) and international manager at the British Pork Executive (BPEX), told FoodManufacture.co.uk that: Britain had become a net exporter of beef for the first time in years.
Beef exports rose 40% to about 80,000t of product with destinations in Europe and Africa driving demand.
Hardwick highlighted particularly strong potential for offal, the so called fifth quarter, to countries such as China. “Before 2006 the products of the fifth quarter had no commercial value so the plants put no focus on it. They had to pay to have it removed thus had no focus on preparing them to a certain quality,” he said.
BPEX and EBLEX have also been working with processors to recover that knowledge of preparing offal from both pig and cows, he said. This has led to new markets being pioneered such as the export of calves’ feet to Africa.
Melanie Leech, FDF director general said: “It's extremely encouraging to see such strong growth in food and drink exports despite the challenging economic climate affecting several of our key markets, particularly in the EU.
“These figures indicate that we are on track to achieve our seventh consecutive year of growth and they also illustrate that there is still a huge appetite for our products abroad.”
Leech identified a role for government in support food businesses – now the UK's biggest manufacturing sector. “Government needs to build on our success and ensure that it supports food businesses, particularly our SMEs, to export great British food and drink products around the globe,” she said.