LONDON: Exports of British food and non-alcoholic drink grew by 5% to £12.8bn in 2013, boosted by a "massive" 82% increase in sales to China, the latest industry data has confirmed.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the UK trade body, said the growth in exports was a welcome rise after a poor harvest caused flat results in 2012 and that value added products had performed well in both the EU (+5%) and non-EU (+6%) markets.

Exports rose last year by 3% in the EU – which still accounts for 75% of total export sales – and an impressive 11.5% outside the EU, including a near doubling of growth in China to £201m to make it the UK's second largest non-EU market for food.

Buoyed by a deal to allow imports of pork and salmon from the UK for the first time, UK port exports to mainland China rose by 92% while Scottish salmon recorded growth of 90%, making those markets alone worth £33m.

Other non-EU markets that recorded strong growth included Australia (+18% to £134m), Hong Kong (+16% to £156m), South Africa (+13% to £103m) and Saudi Arabia (+12% to £132m).

Demand for British chocolate and sweet biscuits fuelled growth in Australia while, in Saudi Arabia, the largest value gains came from the export of eggs and sweet biscuits, British Baker reported.

Despite this encouraging growth in non-EU markets, Ireland and France remained by far the UK's largest food and drink export markets in terms of overall value and the value gained in 2013. Exports rose by 7% to £3.2bn in Ireland and 10% to £1.47bn in France.

The FDF also listed the top five (non-alcoholic) product categories of 2013. Chocolate rose 9% to £571m followed by salmon (+38% to £465m), cheese (+9% to £443m), lamb (+8% to £383m) and soft drinks (+9% to £378m).

"Food and drink exports are back in growth, testament to the strong demand for quality British food and drink and the growing importance of exports to our industry," concluded Steve Barnes, FDF's economic and commercial services director.

Data sourced from Food and Drink Federation, British Baker; additional content by Warc staff