British food and drink exports are up 2% on the same period in 2001, according to latest food and drink export figures released today [Wednesday] by international food and drink export marketing agency Food from Britain.

These figures demonstrate at last a more positive outlook for British food and drink exports, with further recovery predicted to continue for the rest of 2002. It is predicted that for the full year, food and drink exports will easily exceed the £8.5bn (US$13.4bn) achieved in 2001.

Driving this recovery are sales to EU markets, which are now 3% up on 2001. Strong gains have been made in countries such as Germany (+9%), Ireland (+6%), Denmark (+7%), Greece (+16%), Portugal (+17%), Finland (+21%) and Austria (+18%).

Non-EU markets are not faring so well, currently 1% down on the previous year. However, exports to North America and Eastern European markets remain up against 2001 levels, with exports to the USA at a buoyant +12%. Tough trading conditions in South East Asia continue to take their toll on exports to this region, which are still down 3%, although one country bucking this trend is South Korea where exports are up 47%, driven by a 35% increase in whisky.

"It is very encouraging to see UK food and drink exports making such a good recovery following a difficult start to the year," said David McNair, chief executive of Food from Britain. "I am confident that this upward trend will continue, and estimate that figures for the full year will reveal the value of our export sales to be over £8.7bn."

"There is also a lot to be positive about. Exports affected by foot and mouth, such as lamb, pork and dairy products, are starting to get back to pre-restriction levels and we have recently seen the beef ban lifted in France. Our first export of beef was delivered to the Netherlands in October and although it will take a long time to re-establish sales, all these factors will help drive our exports over the coming 12 months," continued McNair.

British beer is a very strong performer around the world, with North America, France and Ireland the key importers. Meat is another product on the rise, up 9%, mainly due to a recovery in sales of pork and lamb, while dairy has remained static.

An increasing focus on added value products over commodity foods has also helped to improve the food and drink export picture according to Food from Britain. Added value products, which now account for 60% of exports, continue to increase. Spurring this on are the ethnic and convenience food and drink sectors, where British producers continue to enjoy an international reputation for innovation and quality.

"These latest figures prove that with resilience and long term commitment to exporting, British food and drink manufacturers can weather difficult trading conditions and deliver strong international sales. While these figures paint a positive picture, we must acknowledge that some markets and sectors still remain tough for exporters," McNair added.