British food and drink exports have risen for the first time in six years, according to Food from Britain.

FFB said export sales rose 4.4% to £8.9bn for 2002, with the strongest growth from alcohol sales up £111.5m on the year.

European markets showed the biggest gains, up 8%.

Meat exports rose 18% as the industry continued to recover from foot and mouth and BSE. Added value products were the star performers, accounting for 63% of 2002’s exports worth £5.6bn.

Exports of cheese from the UK have been enjoying dramatic growth, particularly to other parts of the EU. February shipments more than doubled to 8,700 tonnes.