BRITISH soft fruit found its way into 12 new international markets in 2018, taking the total value of the sector's exports to £22.1 million, up by 69% on the year.

However, the lion's share of that trade was with EU member states, with the Netherlands, Spain and the Republic of Ireland being the UK's biggest markets ahead of Brexit.

Blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are the UK's most popular soft fruit exports, together worth more than £18 million in overseas sales. Over the past five years, the demand for UK soft fruit has risen consistently, with the total value of exports rising by £16.8 million – an increase of more than 300% since 2013. Within that figure, the Netherlands accounts for £6 million, Spain for £5.8 million and the Republic of Ireland £3.4 million.

Speaking at the Fruit Focus Show in Kent, farming minister Robert Goodwill said: “I am delighted to be at the Fruit Focus Show to see the very best of the British soft fruit industry and the innovative ways that fruit is being grown on our farms. For soft fruits, the proof is in the pudding with exports having risen dramatically in the last year. This clearly shows the global demand for delicious, British-grown produce.”

During his visit, Mr Goodwill outlined how the UK horticulture sector can continue to grow after Brexit, arguing that there was a 'global appetite' for British food offering 'untapped opportunities' for farmers and food producers as the UK leaves the EU.