The UK government helped more than 2,500 food and drink businesses sell abroad during the past 12 months, environment secretary Elizabeth Truss has said.

Speaking at this week’s SIAL exhibition in Paris, Truss said the government had smashed its original target to assist 1,000 businesses by October 2015, with the companies assisted by government generating £300m for the UK economy during the past year.

With overall UK food and drink exports growing £1.2bn to a total of £18.9bn from 2010 to 2013, Truss said Defra and UKTI initiatives had been a “huge success.”

“We have helped a record number of British food and drinks companies sell their delicious produce abroad, building a stronger economy for the UK,” she claimed.

“I want to see more people buying British. That’s why I have come to France to fly the flag for British food, encourage more trade and demonstrate how attractive it is to invest in the UK.”

The export picture also looked positive for the Scottish food and drink industry, said Scottish food and rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead.

Speaking at SIAL on Monday, he said exports to Scotland’s largest export market, France, had risen by £21m between 2012 and 2013, and were now some 50% higher than in 2007.

Meanwhile, Welsh exports were up 16% between 2012 and 2013, said deputy minister for farming and food Rebecca Evans.

Talking to The Grocer at the exhibition, she said 17 Welsh companies had travelled to France as part of Wales’s delegation this week, while the Welsh government had also facilitated trade missions to Italy and Spain during the past few months.

“This presence here at SIAL is part of our aspiration to grow Welsh food and drink exports by 30% by 2020,” she said.

“At the last SIAL two years ago contracts of £1m were gained by Welsh companies, and we are hoping for much more this time round.”

Evans added the Welsh administration had helped companies achieve success with financial support, advice and research, and would continue to support businesses as part of its food and drink action plan.

The exhibition also saw Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) launch a new DVD promoting Welsh red meat in 13 languages.

“HCC and Welsh processors are working hard to gain access to emerging markets, and I hope this new DVD will help identify and persuade new customers across the world to buy Welsh lamb and beef,” said Evans.