Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has agreed a £50m landmark deal with the Chinese government, which will see British pork exported to China for the first time.
The announcement was made during a UK trade mission to China and is the culmination of several years’ work by Defra, UKTI, Bpex, QMS and UK pork producers.
Chinese consumption of meat, pork in particular, is increasing and outstripping domestic supply and the UK pig industry estimates that trade in British pork with China may soon be worth more than £50m a year. Much of the export will be made up of fifth-quarter products, including offal, trotters, and pigs ears, which are not used in domestic markets.
Paice said: “China is the most lucrative grocery market in the world and, from fashion to food, its rapidly expanding middle class has an appetite for Western goods.
“In particular they are eating more meat, and our top-quality producers have got huge opportunities to meet that demand and help our economic recovery.”
Bpex chairman Stewart Houston said: “This is a wonderful achievement and something we have been working towards for several years in close co-operation with Defra and the British embassy in Beijing.
“The process has been a long one, but I know it will prove to be extremely worthwhile.
“Pork is the most popular meat in China and some of the cuts which are less popular here command a premium over there.”
The first consignment of British pork is ready to be dispatched by Tulip, the UK’s biggest producer.
Andrew Saunders, Tulip’s director of agriculture, said: “The news of the clearance to supply British pig meat into China is the culmination of many months of hard work by the team at Defra, Bpex and the National Pig Association, which have played a vital role in securing this export business opportunity by working in conjunction with the pig meat processing industry and UK pig farmers.
“The commitment by China to use British pig meat is a true testament to the quality and standards in place across the UK pig industry and provides us with an exciting opportunity to enter a developing market.”
Laurent Vernet, head of marketing for Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) said: “We are delighted with the progress being made. The Chinese are major consumers of pork, including fifth quarter products for which there is limited demand from the home market.
“This will be a useful opportunity for the Scottish pig industry in terms of fully utilising every part of the carcass, reducing waste and optimising returns.
“It will also be helpful in terms of getting a foot in the door for other species. Negotiations with China are likely to be lengthy and while the progress is a positive step it is important to be realistic about expectations at this stage.”
Defra is looking to use the experience of developing this trade deal to open up markets for other British products and services, which it says is vital in the future work of the food exports action plan.
In November 2010, Business Secretary Vince Cable signed a formal agreement on health certificates for exports of pig meat with the Chinese authorities. Since then, five plants have been inspected and approved for export, including Tulip and Cranswick’s Preston plant.
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