Trade credit giant Atradius has vowed to increase its exposure to food and agriculture companies despite suffering some of its largest losses in the sector over the past year.

Food and agriculture now represented 10% of its UK risk portfolio by value, said Atradius. It increased cover for companies in the sector by 5% in 2010 and would increase the amount again this year, it said, citing greater dialogue with businesses about performance.

Premier Foods CEO Robert Schofield blasted credit insurers in 2009 for their "corrosive" withdrawal of cover from the industry during the downturn. The latest news from Atradius will provide some comfort to companies digesting this week's shock 0.5% fall in GDP, which has revived fears of a double-dip recession. The Office of National Statistics said economic activity would have been "flattish" even without the impact of the cold weather.

The number of retail companies facing financial distress rose by 17% in the last quarter of 2010 after a slowdown during the previous six months, new figures from business recovery specialist Begbies Traynor showed.

Atradius UK head of underwriting Simon Rockett said the continued lack of affordable lending from banks had added to food companies' winter woes.