A delegation from the General Administrations of Customs of the People’s Republic of China arrived in the UK for a ten-day visit, which included a tour of a sheep farm, abattoir, feed mill and attended a feed testing workshop in a bid to better understand the disease control measures for the sheep meat sector.
The visit forms part of ongoing work by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) alongside the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and meat levy bodies Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) as well as others including UKECP, to open the market for UK lamb. It was financed from the £2m fund of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by Britain’s three meat levy bodies: AHDB, HCC and QMS.
It comes in the same week the UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss arrived in China with AHDB to discuss the progress of beef and pork exports.
The Chinese authorities signed a protocol agreement in June to export beef for the first time in more than 20 years since the BSE ban. Since gaining access in 2012, China has become the main market in the region for pork exports from the UK. AHDB reported that demand was particularly strong in 2016, with UK exports valued at £43.3m with offal exports worth a further £31.4m.
AHDB international market development director Dr Phil Hadley said the visit was incredibly successful.
“This week’s visit was hugely significant as we look to increase our red meat exports to the all-important Chinese market,” Dr Hadley said. “We are making great strides in opening the doors to sheep meat and we will continue to work with Defra and other bodies to make this ambition a reality.”
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) export development executive Deanna Jones said that the visit was another important step towards opening the market.
“The Chinese market is of course the most populous in the world,” said Jones. “If we were able to lift the historic restrictions on exports to the People’s Republic, it could be a major boost to lamb and beef farmers in Wales.
“In the summer, we made very good progress on beef following the GACC inspection and the visit of the high-level Chinese delegation with Welsh Government to farms in Wales,” she added. “But we’ve always been clear that being able to export PGI Welsh Lamb is hugely important. We’re therefore pleased to see progress in this area too, although it’s too soon to say when sheep meat exports might begin.”