Chinese market open for UK organic dairy imports

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese market open for UK organic dairy imports

Related tags: Soil association, Organic food

A British organic dairy cooperative has broken into the one of the world’s most lucrative markets after being awarded the UK’s first licence through the Soil Association to export organic products to China.

The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSCo) has been awarded the licence for UK organic exports under an agreement reached between the UK Soil Association and OFDC (Organic Food Development and Certification Centre of China) in April 2014.

Milk produced under this licence can be supplied to organic processors wanting to export to China.

The Chinese organic market is growing and attracting lots of interest from the UK organic sector looking to export. However, the regulations to export to China are complex, which is why we have set up the partnership with OFDC to help facilitate the process as much as we can,” ​Emma Yeats, senior development manager with Soil Association Certification, told FoodNavigator.

Another outlet for UK organic milk

OMSCo has been exporting to all main European markets since 2008, helping to redistribute the UK oversupply, and, in the process, earning its 200-strong group of farmers an export premium.

Since 2011, the cooperative has also been producing a percentage of milk and dairy ingredients to the US National Organic Program standard. These are supplied to food manufacturers to allow them to sell their products as organic in the USA - a market previously off-limits to EU organic producers.

asia india and china globe map

Receiving the licence to supply Chinese certified milk will enable the cooperative to break into one of world’s most lucrative markets. According to the UK Soil Association, demand for organic products in China is high and the country already imports over €45 billion worth of food and beverages from around the world. It said organic dairy products were especially in demand, following the spate of recent food scares.

The initial certification for OMSCo covers 15 million litres of organic milk, worth between €10 and €14 million at port of export, depending on the end product the milk is used in.

Richard Hampton, managing director of OMSCo, said in a statement: This partnership helps enormously with the rollout of our organic dairy products to customers who need quality organic dairy ingredients for their products destined for the Chinese market.

As yet, OMSCo is the only organisation to have been awarded a licence to supply products that are compliant with Chinese organic standards. However, Yeats said it was likely that more Soil Association certified customers would follow suit​.

As to whether the Soil Association has any plans to forge similar partnerships in other export markets, Yeats said: We develop arrangements with other certifiers where we need to overcome legislative requirements for exporting to certain countries. For example, through Australia Certified Organic, or National Organic Program to the US, or for certification for export of certain types of products to Korea. At the
 moment, though, there is only the need for such a unique partnership in China.

Link with regulatory discussions?

Coincidentally, EU organic legislation is currently under review, and one of the proposed changes is to introduce a choice of strict compliance for imports into the EU or the negotiation of bilateral or multilateral trade agreements based on equivalence, such as the current EU/US trade agreement.

Asked whether the Soil Association’s partnership with OFDC could preface an agreement within this new legal context, Yeats said: It is not clear if and when the EU would be in a position to establish such a trade agreement with China as this will require extensive negotiations.

However, she said the Soil Association’s understanding is that the partnership is helping inform discussions between the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), China and the EU.

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1 comment

UK organic milk to China

Posted by Bruce A. Scholten,

Good to see organic dairy demand growing in China. The demand for British OMSCO organic milk is understandable, when Chinese friends doubt domestic produce (think Melmac scandal, a few years ago). Will Omsco's move have ramifications for Organic Valley in USA?
Meanwhile, China is investing in massive confinement production and processing facilities (partly to export conventional dairy products to Russia, in the context of the EU embargo). There is much to learn about Chinese dairying and the implications for cow & people welfare.

Bruce Scholten
Durham, England, UK
Author (2010 I.B. Tauris) India's White Revolution; (2014 Palgrave) U.S. Organic Dairy Politics

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