Exports of British beef grew by 321% last year as exports of food and drink from the UK reached an all-time high.

Latest figures from the Food from Britain revealed food and drink exports totalled £10.5bn, the first time they reached such levels since BSE export restrictions were implemented in 1996.

Meat exports rose to £764.6m, with France remaining a key market for UK meat exports, with sales showing a rise of 5.2% to £202.1m.

Lamb exports saw an increase of about 9% to £232.6m, but beef exports saw the most impressive growth, increasing by 321% to £80.1m.

David McNair, Food From Britain chief executive, said the lifting of the 10-year export ban on British beef had lead to exports reaching the £10.5bn high.

“This heralds the end of a difficult decade, but one which we emerge stronger from and with a solid and more diverse platform for future growth,” he said.

While there were more opportunities for producers overseas, Mr McNair warned competition was equally as fierce from other exporting “heavyweights”, including France Germany and the United States.

“We need to recognise exporting as a strategic route to long-term growth and benefit from such experience to allow us to compete more effectively both at home and abroad,” Mr McNair said.