After years of strong growth, UK food and drink exports remained flat at £12.1bn in 2012, according to the Food and Drink Federation.

The hardest hit category was grains. After a poor UK harvest restricted the amount available for export, cereal sales plummeted 28%.

The industry was also hit by the weak EU economy and the strength of the pound against the euro last year. Exports to the EU bloc fell by 1.4% while exports to non-EU markets rose by 4.6%.

The FDF said it was a resilient performance, especially relative to exports from other UK industry sectors, which fell 4.5%.

“Food and drink manufacturers have continued to make strong in-roads abroad, travelling further afield to drive sales of great British-made products. At a time when other sectors are struggling to find demand overseas, this achievement should be applauded and encouraged,” said FDF’s economic and commercial services director Steve Barnes.

In 2011, UK food and drink exports surged 11.4%.