EXPORTS of North-East and food a drink increased by almost five per cent in the last year, new figures show.

The most popular products from the region overseas were coffee, tea, cocoa and spices, up just over three per cent to £79m and cereals, up almost seven per cent to £33m.

Sales of animal and vegetable oils saw the largest increase, up 118 per cent to £4.6m.

The statistics also show that more firms in the region are targeting Australia, with 29 per cent more food and drink exported to the country during the period when compared to the previous twelve months.

There was also a marked increase in appetite for North-East produce in China, where local exports rose by 27 per cent, and in Canada, where exports rose by 24 per cent.

David Coppock, head of the North-East region at the Department for International Trade, said: “These figures indicate the scale of demand for the North-East’s food and drink produce overseas, and this demand is only growing.

“Although exporting can be hugely profitable and help businesses of all sizes boost their resilience, we know that it isn’t without its challenges.

"This is why we’re on hand to offer our support to anyone interested in starting, or growing, their export sales.

"As well as running regular trade missions to key markets overseas, we can offer guidance on everything from selling online to managing logistics and foreign tax requirements.

"We also offer one-to-one support through our network of International Trade Advisers, who are based on the ground across the North East."