The August outbreak of foot and mouth may not hit exports as hard as feared - because Britain has widened its exports to such a degree it is no longer as reliant on beef, according to Food from Britain.

Exports in the first half of the year rose 9% to £5.25bn on the same period last year, the latest export figures from FFB reveal.

Despite the FMD outbreak, total exports for the year are expected to reach an all-time high of £11bn.

The figures showed the resilience of the British export market, particularly meat, said FFB. The value of meat exports rose 31% - more than any other category - to £355.8m, even though it was hit by the avian flu outbreak at the start of the year.

Britain's export prospects for the second-half remained strong, said FFB, despite the likely impact of FMD. "Britain's red meat exports used to be very strong and contributed significantly to export figures," said Chris Brockman, research and consultancy manager at FFB.

"The BSE incident and the first foot and mouth outbreak spelled real problems for exports, but since then the UK has strengthened all of its food and drink export offerings and is not as reliant on beef as it was."

Export growth has been driven by a number of categories such as dairy, exports of which were up 8% on the previous half-year results, as well as tea, coffee and cocoa, which were up 15%, and miscellaneous grocery, which was up 9%.

Exports to countries such as Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Greece have all enjoyed double-digit percentage growth over the six-month period.

"The UK is a leader in many food categories such as own label, chilled, convenience, soft drinks, ethnic and functional foods," said Brockman. "There are lots of opportunities abroad. We are confident our exports will continue to perform strongly."

Britain is still dependent on exports of alcohol, and in particular Scottish Whisky, which at £1.6bn accounts for about a third of total exports. Exports to Singapore grew 85%, led by whisky, according to FFB. Soft drinks was the only category in decline, down 8%.