Global sales of UK food and drink have hit the £20 billion (€23 billion) mark for the first time, the UK’s Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom has announced.

New figures reveal exports increased by nearly 10% in 2016, with food and drink sales to the USA – one of Britain’s biggest markets – recording a 12% increase.

China is quickly becoming one of Britain’s fastest growing markets, with the export value of pork skyrocketing to £43m (€50m) – an increase of over 70%.

The figures also show that newer markets saw record growth last year. UK exports to Malaysia grew by 143%, while India emerged as one of its priority markets due to growing demand for Scotch whisky.

The figures reveal exports show no sign of slowing following the decision to leave the EU, and come as Leadsom vows to ramp up the focus on international trade.

With only one in five food producers currently exporting, a Government team has turned its attention to ensuring UK companies have the skills, knowledge and confidence to tap into new international markets and take advantage of the global demand for British food and drink.

Speaking ahead of an NFU Conference today, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said that it’s great to see the global appetite for British food and drink continues to grow.

As we prepare to leave the EU, there has never been a better time to become more outward looking – developing new trading relationships and establishing our place as a truly Global Britain.

“But the food and drink industry cannot do this alone. We need to give them the skills, knowledge and contacts to make the most of the opportunities ahead.

“I want to see more companies taking advantage of these opportunities, which is why we’re expanding our team of trade experts to support UK businesses, encouraging them to take the leap and share their quality produce with the world.”

As well as opening up new markets around the globe, the UK Government is to continue its focus on taking advantage of European markets – with exports of salmon to France growing by 31% and all food and drink exports to Germany up by 12%.

France and Germany are among the priority markets identified in the UK International Action Plan for Food and Drink launched last October.

Through this plan, the Government is focusing on forging stronger links with key markets including the USA, Canada, China and India. The aim is to generate an extra £2.9 billion (€3.4 billion) in exports over the next five years.

Food and Drink Federation Director General, Ian Wright, said that exports of food and drink reached record levels last year and the federation is committed to building on this success going forward.

We’ll continue to work closely with Government to help existing and new food and drink exporters take advantage of the growing international demand for our produce.