Looking at the shift in agricultural trade.
The second half of the 20th century was known as the ‘American Century’, such was the economic and political might of the USA after World War Two. It is now looking a safe bet to assume that the 21st century will belong to China, not America, especially given the current influence the Asian powerhouse exerts over global geopolitics.
For Britain’s beef farmers, China’s lifting of BSE restrictions is a step in the right direction as they aim for greater access to Chinese consumers and their growing spending power, hence why Prime Minister Theresa May was so keen so showcase the trade work she has undertaken over there in recent weeks.
AHDB’s presence on the trip was a positive for UK agriculture as every opportunity is used to reinforce why farming matters in ongoing trade talks across the world. It was therefore encouraging to hear International Trade Secretary Liam Fox saying he was going to focus on the potential of UK agri-food in 2018, although some question whether he is doing that because he knows how hard agriculture could be hit by post-Brexit trade dynamics.
Yet China’s attraction to UK politicians is clear. With the country to set to invest even more in UK infrastructure over the coming decades, now is the opportune time to what access can be gained for UK farm produce to a population which keeps on expanding and modernising.
A growing Chinese middle class will increasingly want higher quality products in the form of meat and dairy and they key for Britain is to harness the power the British brand and the Union Flag wields abroad. Other sectors such as fashion and interior design make a virtue of the ‘brand Britain’ on the global stage and it is key agriculture does the same.
China’s doors will not be flung open straight away, but the long-term gains could be key for UK farmers, especially for higher value products which harness our high standards of animal welfare and premium appeal.
And finally, if you have questions for Farming Minister George Eustice as part of his exclusive Farmers Guardian monthly opinion piece, make sure you send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org