Booming exports boost UK food sales

A thriving meat export industry has helped UK food and drink exports exceed the £11bn mark for the first time.

According to the latest figures from market development network Food from Britain, 2007 saw UK food and drink exports grow ahead of imports to reach a record-breaking £11.45bn.

Despite a challenging global economy and the resurgence of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), meat exports continued to recover in 2007 and grew by 13% year-on-year. Beef exports grew by 36% to reach £125m in 2007 - still well below the pre-BSE figure of £0.6bn, but showing good year-on-year growth.

Research and consultancy manager at Food from Britain, Chris Brockman, said: "Breaking the £10bn barrier in 2006 was incredibly significant, as it was the first time since the BSE and FMD outbreaks that the export market has reached this level of business.

"In the mid-1990s, beef exports had reached £0.6bn alone - to lose that, and still see total food and drink export performance grow in recent years, shows the resilience of the industry as a whole, which is why the latest FMD outbreak had a minimal impact on the results."

Exports of fresh beef to Ireland and the Netherlands - the UK's biggest beef markets - increased by 87% and 48% respectively in 2007. Exports of frozen beef to France increased by 265% year-on-year.

Poultry meat saw strong growth across Europe, resulting in a 25% increase to £200m, while lamb exports decreased by 19% in 2007 due to August's FMD outbreak and pork decreased by 12% to £88m.

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