Exports of British sheep meat to China have edged a step closer after Chinese government officials visited the country this week.
The delegation were in the UK for a ten-day visit, during which they were given a tour of a sheep farm, abattoir, feed mill and attended a feed testing workshop in a bid to better understand disease control measures in the UK.
It formed part of ongoing work by Defra alongside AHDB, QMS and HCC as well as others to open the market for lamb.
It comes in the same week the UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss arrived in China 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.
And since access was opened in 2012, China has become the main market in the region for pork exports.
AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said the visit was incredibly successful and marked a major step forward in the UK’s ambitions to gain market access.
“This week’s visit was hugely significant as we look to increase our red meat exports to the all-important Chinese market,” he added.
“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.”
HCC export development executive Deanna Jones said the visit was ‘another important step’.
“The Chinese market is of course the most populous in the world,” she said.
“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.”
She added they had made very good progress on beef over the summer.
“But we have always been clear that being able to export PGI Welsh Lamb is hugely important.
“We are therefore pleased to see progress in this area too, although it is too soon to say when sheepmeat exports might begin.”
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “The red meat sector is of huge importance to Welsh agriculture and the economy.
“As we prepare to leave the European Union, lifting restrictions could provide a great opportunity for our producers to explore new overseas markets and get a foothold in the Chinese market for our iconic PGI Welsh Lamb.”