A boom in food & drink exports to South Korea - as well as continued strong sales to China - has provided light on the horizon for those hoping to see non-EU trade surge in the wake of Brexit.

However, latest figures from HMRC and the FDF show exports to the EU 27 grew at a faster rate.

Overall exports of all UK food & drink in the first half of 2017 grew to £10.2bn, up 8.5% on the same period last year, representing the biggest H1 exports value on record. During the period, Europe’s share of exports grew to 61.2%.

South Korea (up 77%), China (35%) and Belgium (39%) were the three export markets that saw the greatest percentage growth in value.

The rapid growth in exports to growing East Asian markets was led by South Korea, which is gaining a taste for British beer. Overall exports surged to £156.3m.

The US remained the UK’s top non-EU market for exports of branded food & drink, reaching £91.5m in H1 2017, up from £87.8m in 2016.

Top UK branded goods sold to the US included food preparations, bread, pastry, cakes, puddings and sweet biscuits.

The US has been identified by the government as providing significant opportunities for a trade deal post-Brexit but the food industy is also pinning its hopes on China,

Reserch recently commisioend by the FDF by Grant Thornton showed China, which represented £274.3m in exports in H1, India (£50.7m) and the UAE (£164.8m) were the top 3 target markets that food and drink companies would like to target.

The countries were prioritised by the companies surveyed based on their scale which affords a sizeable middle class target customer base with strong and growing demand for quality Western products.

Yet while the fall in the price of the pound has helped to boost UK export competitiveness, this currency weakness has also led to an increase in the cost of many essential imported ingredients and raw materials which resulted in the UK’s food and drink trade deficit increasing by 16% to -£12.4bn in the first half of the year.

FDF director genral Ian Wright, commented: “The growth of food and alcoholic drink exports is very encouraging. We want to work with Government to take advantage of increased demand for UK products overseas and the opportunities that leaving the EU is expected to create.

“It is great to see such strong growth in our exports to EU Member States. The EU remains an essential market for UK exports as well as for supplies of key ingredients and raw materials used by our industry. We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our sector’s exports further still.

”The continuing weakness of sterling is a concern. However, we hope that with the determination of businesses and the assistance of Government, we can open more channels and provide a further boost to the UK’s competitiveness on the world market.”