UK food and drink suppliers may be facing a tough time at home with rising fuel and energy prices but exports are going from strength to strength.

The latest figures from Food from Britain show that food and drink exports rose 9.1% last year to reach a record high of £11.5bn and FFB is predicting similar growth for this year.

Exports in 2008 were likely to top £12.5bn, confirmed FFB's head of research and consultancy Chris Brockman.

"The credit crunch means companies may now have to look overseas," he said. "Of course it's not that easy to develop new business but I think we are in a much better position than other industries."

Last year, Ireland and France were the strongest export markets for UK food and drink companies at £2.2bn and £1.4bn respectively.

Though the strength of the pound against the dollar led to a slight fall off in UK exports to the US, the outlook was expected to improve this year as the dollar continued to recover.

The ongoing strength of the euro against the pound would also generate further opportunities in the eurozone, predicted Brockman.

While whisky was by far the biggest export category at £2.8bn, overall growth in the export market was being driven by value-added indulgence lines such as cakes and biscuits as well as health and wellbeing products, he said.

Bread, pastry, cakes and biscuit exports were up 7.4% to £513m last year, while cereal exports were up 10% to £1.4bn on the back of strong performances by premium brands such as Dorset Cereals and Jordans.

FFB declined to comment on whether any progress had been made on its succession plans. In February Defra announced it was axing FFB's funding from April next year. Discussions have since been held with key industry bodies regarding the best way to support UK suppliers overseas going forward. A decision is expected next month.