Dairy exports climbed by 8.8%, while total overseas sales of food and non-alcoholic drink grew by a more modest 2.6%. The value of exports has doubled over the past 10 years – rising from £6.5bn in 2004 to £12.8bn last year.
Cheese exports rose by 5.6% to contribute a third of the overall dairy exports.
The EU remained the UK’s biggest market for food and drink exports. The top three product categories last year were: salmon, chocolate and cheese.
Exports of food and non-alcoholic drink to non-EU countries rose by 9%, with double-digit growth recorded for deliveries to the US and China.
‘Worth a record £103bn to the UK economy’
Rising exports revealed the world’s growing demand for high-quality British food and drink, said George Eustice, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “Today’s new figures are further evidence of the global appetite for our top-quality British food which was worth a record £103bn to the UK economy in 2013,” he told visitors tothe International Food Exhibition (IFE) held at ExCeL in London today (March 26).
“It is particularly encouraging to see UK dairy exports at a record high as our farmers seize new opportunities to export abroad and grow their business.”
The food and non-alcoholic drink sector has continuously outperformed on exports, growing strongly even throughout the recession, claimed the FDF. Its economic and commercial services director Steve Barnes said the figures were testament to high-quality British brands and innovative products.
“Food and drink is bucking the trend when it comes to exports and this is great news for the UK economy,” said Barnes.
“High demand from international markets for our food and drink must be at the heart of the country’s strategy for economic growth and we look forward to working with the government to capitalise on this opportunity.”
The export totals were compiled by the FDF from figures supplied by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
The success of dairy exports was despite Russia’s ban on food imports from the EU countries imposed last year.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Eustice acknowledged the dairy industry’s “roller coaster ride”.
Speaking at the launch of the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group’s report on the sector’s prospects, Eustice said: “The past year has been a rollercoaster ride. It started as a record year for most dairy farmers. It was the most confident I had seen the industry ever. Then to have such a sharp fall in prices was a blow.”
The report set out nine recommendations – including price hedging tools – in order to boost the troubled sector.