The UK’s agri-food sector is now worth almost £122 billion to the country’s economy, according to new figures.

The National Farmers’ Union published the new Defra statistic as part of its State of the Farming Economy report.

The union warned that, as a result, the strategic importance and economic value of the British food and farming industry must not be overlooked in the Brexit discussions to come.

It showed that the contribution of the agri-food sector to the national economy increased from £113 billion in 2016 to nearly £121.7 billion in 2017.

Over the same period, UK food and drink exports increased by 2.5% to £22.6 billion in 2018.

The growth has also created new jobs with the number of people employed in the UK agri-food sector, with the number now surpassing four million.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “Defra’s latest figures reinforce the importance of the British food and farming industry both nationally and globally, and its value must not be forgotten as we head back into Brexit discussions.

Farming is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, which provides the nation and wider world with safe, traceable and affordable food produced to world-leading animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards.

“Given farming’s value to the UK economy and the huge number of people it employs, we must ensure that food and farming in Britain are at the forefront of Brexit negotiations when the House of Commons returns and talks begin again in earnest.”