Door to UK beef exports is opening

By BO LEUNG | China Daily UK | Updated: 2016-11-25 20:56

Door to UK beef exports is opening

Cows at a farm in South Wales. [Photo/Agencies]

UK farmers are gearing up to resume exports of high-quality beef to China, where sales of imported beef have doubled in two years, following a vote of confidence from visiting Chinese inspectors who are due back in Britain next spring.

In a first for Britain, the Chinese officials went to a beef farm and abattoir in Surrey last month to observe the typical standard of UK animal welfare and disease control. The visit was hosted by the government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Further progress is likely to be made in April 2017, when Chinese inspectors will return for technical reviews before additional inspections and negotiations are carried out into existing export restrictions.

Britain and China first agreed to talks about the possibility of UK exports of beef and lamb back in 2014. The UK government said at the time they would be the first such negotiations since restrictions were imposed on British beef and lamb sales in the 1980s, following the outbreak of BSE - so-called "mad cow" disease.

With China's middle-income population on the rise, the demand for high-quality cuts of meat is strong. China's appetite for beef has increased, with 1.5 billion pounds worth of the meat imported last year, a doubling from 2014.

Phil Hadley, head of global supply chain development at AHDB Beef and  Lamb, an official body for the industry, described last month's visit as positive.

"This was a small but important step on the road to exports to China," he said."We are at the beginning of a long road and it is going to take some time to negotiate the full opening of the market."

The government's chief veterinarian, Nigel Gibbens, who chaired meetings with Chinese officials, also welcomed the positive discussions held with the delegation.

Environment Minister Andrea Leadsom visited China this month to discuss increased trade opportunities for UK food and drink exporters with business leaders and government officials.

"The Chinese have always attached great importance to food safety and quality and we are flying the flag for our industry, renowned for its exceptional standards of welfare, quality and safety," she said on her return."This visit from the Chinese delegation was a significant step towards opening the door for our world-class beef into this hugely lucrative market."

Last year, the UK exported£290 million ($361 million) of food and drink to China.

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