UK pork exports last year were the highest since 2000 after strong growth in markets beyond Europe.

Exports of pig meat and offal reached 255,956t in 2013, 6% higher than in 2012 and 11% higher than in 2011, and were worth more than £325m.

China and Hong Kong combined was the biggest single market, buying 57,000t of pork of which about 27% was offal.

Exports of pork cuts saw the largest increase, as sales to the EU rose 12% to 125,747t and sales outside Europe grew 27% to 53,124t.

Total offal exports fell by 7,411t, to 41,123t, with growth in China and Hong Kong not making up for a drop-off in the EU.

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BPEX international manager Peter Hardwick said the levy board was working hard to open more export markets in Russia and south-east Asia.

 “This increase in exports is extremely gratifying and is to a great extent due to the efforts of BPEX, in conjunction with DEFRA, to open new markets, especially outside the EU, with China being the highlight,” he said. “Although, last year also saw a reinvigorated trade with Japan.”

“We believe there is considerable scope for this to grow further as we increase the number of approved export plants and hope shortly to reach agreement on the export of pigs trotters, which are estimated to represent 40% of the trade to China.”

Britain’s exports grew faster than the EU as a whole, with European pork exports rising 3% in 2013 to 1.6m tonnes.

But the UK imported 2% less pork in 2013 than the year before, a total of 845,050t.