The UK-China Beef Protocol was signed by Farming Minister Robert Goodwill and the Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming as part of the tenth Economic and Financial Dialogue between the UK and China, securing market access for UK beef exporters by the end of 2019.
The agreement could be worth an estimated £230m for British producers in the first five years alone, and comes more than 20 years after the Chinese government imposed a ban on UK imports of beef in 1996 due to the BSE crisis.
The agreement was reached following inspection visits hosted by Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Food Standards Agency, DAERA in Northern Ireland, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP), in conjunction with beef farmers and food business operators.
Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) head of Asia-Pacific Jonathan Eckley told Global Meat News that the entire beef supply chain across the UK was visited by the delegates.
AHDB international market development director Dr Phil Hadley said: “Today’s announcement is fantastic news for our meat processors, who are set to benefit massively from the opportunities this new agreement presents.
“It comes after many years spent working tirelessly to reopen access for our beef exports and it’s a real testament to the work of government and other industry bodies to make this happen. We look forward to seeing the first shipments leave the UK bound for China in the near future.”
British Meat Processors Association trade policy advisor Peter Hardwick said: "It is great news and the culmination of several years of detailed work by Government, AHDB and the UK meat industry. It comes at a time when we are going to need every export opportunity to help mitigate the inevitably disruptive effects of Brexit and coincides with a rapidly growing demand for beef in China."
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales chief executive Gwyn Howells said: “This is a market which has incredible potential. Over recent years there has been a huge increase in the amount of beef imported by the country, from 61,000 tonnes in 2012 to nearly 700,000 tonnes five years later. Securing just 1% of this trade could be worth between £25 and £50 million a year, and this figure does not include offal and other fifth quarter products for which there could be a significant market in China.
“Progress towards lifting beef export restrictions will also raise optimism regarding future lamb exports. The lifting of restrictions for both species has been proceeding through a similar process, therefore we will continue to work with our partners to secure new markets for Welsh meat.”
International trade secretary Dr Liam Fox added: “Today’s step is welcome progress for our world-leading British beef producers, who will soon be able to export their products to one of the world’s largest economies, supporting local jobs and bringing millions of pounds to the UK economy each year.
“This comes as a result of years of hard work across Government, including at the Department for International Trade, and marks the next step in realising our global trading ambitions with unbeatable British food. As we leave the European Union, we will continue to break down market access barriers to make it easier for UK businesses to trade across the world.”