The search is now on for the UK’s leading food and drink exporters with the launch of the annual Food from Britain Export Awards, in association with The Grocer.

The awards, now in their seventh year, provide an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the country’s exporters. And there should be plenty for them to shout about, with the latest figures showing that exports of food and drink hit £8.9bn in 2002, recording the first increase in six years.

There are eight sector categories to enter: frozen & chilled; confectionery; seafood; cereal-based; grocer; dairy (which is new this year); drinks; and speciality. In addition, all entries will be entered into the category for marketing innovation.

And all entries will also be put forward for one of the relevant national awards to recognise the best exporters from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. And, of course, the top prize will go to the company judged Food & Drink Exporter of the Year.

This year’s winners will be announced at the Annual Export Awards Luncheon and Network Forum on December 17 at the Inter-Continental Hotel in London.

Details on the competition and the Network Forum can be found on www.foodfrombritain.com/pearls. Or you can ring Tracy George on 0207 468 8566.

But hurry! The deadline for entries is October 3.