The value of Ireland's food and drinks exports grew by over 9% in 2013, according to figures published by Bord Bia today.

It brought the value of those exports to just under €10 billion for the year.

While many industries struggled in the past four years, the food and beverage sector continued to go from strength to strength. 

The value of food and drink exports has grown by over 40% since 2009. 

According to the figures, export values for dairy product and ingredients exceeded €3 billion for the first time.

Export values for meat and livestock came in €3.3 billion, while exports of prepared foods hit €1.65 billion. 

Today's figures also show that the UK remains the country's biggest export destination accounting for 42% of food and drink exports. An estimated €4.1 billion of products reached the UK market in 2013.

Exports to China were up over 40% in the year. The value of food and drinks exports to that destination has trebled over the past three years to €390m. That makes it Ireland's sixth largest export market overall with potential for further growth in the years ahead.

"Among the highlights of 2013 have been the double digit growth in dairy and beef export values, the strong recovery in sales to euro zone destinations, and the exceptional performance of the industry in China, now Ireland's second largest dairy and third largest pork market," commented Bord Bia's Chief Executive Aidan Cotter.  

"The industry is well positioned to exploit the relentless growth in the global demand for food, underpinned by its grass-based production systems and its ability to build its presence on both new and established markets," he added.