The Livestock & Marketing Commission (LMC) of Northern Ireland, and the Ulster Farmers’ Union, are set to visit China this month during the World Meat Congress in Beijing, and will be pushing for a lifting of the ban on UK beef and lamb. The trip will aim to foster closer relationships with the Chinese authorities.
LMC chief executive Ian Stevenson said: "Northern Ireland’s beef and lamb processing sector does not have direct access to mainland China at the moment, although we do supply Hong Kong and other associated markets in the region.
"It may take up to four years before full approval can be secured for local beef producers to supply China. This will entail a long and complicated administrative process and inspection visits to Northern Ireland by veterinarians representing the Chinese government. But it is an effort well worth making because beef consumption is on the rise throughout south-east Asia, as are income levels.
"Access to the Chinese market also holds out the hope of securing higher returns for the fifth quarter, which includes edible offal and hides.
"The Commission and the meat industry are fully aware of the potential benefits that can be passed on to farmers through our accessing of the Chinese markets.
"Business in China, more than within any other international market, is carried on the strength of personal relationships. This is why it is so important for representatives from Northern Ireland to make the effort and meet with their counterparts within China’s food and retail sectors on their home patch."
The World Meat Congress takes place from 14-16 June and is organised by the International Meat Secretariat in partnership this year with the China Meat Association.