The UK is making ‘good progress’ towards opening up new beef and lamb export deals with China, after recent successes with pork and barley, according to Defra Secretary Liz Truss.
Mrs Truss has just returned from a trade mission to China where she led a delegation of 80 UK food companies.
She said trip highlighted the growing demand for British food and drink brands in the world’s most populous country.
Last week the Defra Secretary announced a new £100 million new deal to export 750,000 tonnes of British barley to Chinese breweries over the next five years, tapping into China’s position as the world biggest beer drinker.
This followed a lucrative deal for the export of ‘fifth quarter’ pork cuts to China, boosting the value of the UK pig carcase.
Mrs Truss is now targeting red meat exports, a goal the industry, led by AHDB, has been pursuing for a number of years.
“We had a very positive discussion with the (Chinese) Agriculture Minister on the potential for opening up the beef and lamb market. There is huge potential there," Mrs Truss told Farmers Guardian.
"There is a lot of Australian beef around. I want to see British beef being sold.”
The shadow of BSE has long cast a shadow over red meat exports but Mrs Truss said Defra’s TSE working group was working with China and Defra’s chief vet Nigel Gibbens had visited in September.
“We are making progress on that," Mrs Truss
Mrs Truss welcomed the recent move by Canada to re-open its market for beef imports from Scotland, which she said ’recognises the world-class reputation our Scotch Beef has for its taste and welfare standards’.
He added: "It is very good news that Canada has now opened its market to British beef and my next target is opening up beef and lamb markets in China."
“The Chinese also encouraged us to apply for licences for processed products like bacon, ham and sausage because there was a massive interest in these products.”
Despite a slowing of the rate of economic growth in China, Mrs Truss insisted it remained on course to become the world’s biggest food importer by 2018, partly on the back of Government recognition of the need to secure imports deals to guarantee its food security.
She said the prospects for UK food exporters had never been better.
“It was the first visit since the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, visited the UK and a lot of Ministers are talking about the golden era in UK-China relations.
"They see increasing trade in food and agricultural product as a really key part of this.
Mrs Truss was accompanied by AHDB chief executive Jane King who she said ensured the ‘Great’ British brand was prominent at FHC, China’s global food trade show.
“The British brand is so positively received there. It is associated with quality and high standards of animal welfare and very high safety standards.
“There is an enormous opportunity for us to win market share against other countries who are exporting into China, regardless of the economic situation in China."
Dairy businesses from around the UK accompanied Defra Secretary Liz Truss on her trade mission to Shanghai.
The companies visiting FHC, China’s global food trade show, ranged from small, family-run enterprises to larger export businesses and are all keen to take advantage of the growing demand for British foods such as cheese and ice cream.
Somerdale International, exporter of West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Blue Stilton and flavoured cheeses.
Kendal Nutricare, pharmaceutical research company and the only British infant formula milk manufacturer registered to manufacture this product for the Chinese market.
Jersey Dairy, already enjoys good brand awareness in Hong Kong with sales of UHT milk, butter and ice cream. The company aims to promote its Luxury Ice Cream to buyers from across China and other Asian markets and increase the number of stockists selling the product.
Fayrefield Foods, creators of the brand Collier’s Powerful Welsh Cheddar which is produced in in Llandrynog, North Wales.
Rodda’s, family business which exports its Cornish clotted cream to Hong Kong.
Daioni, Pembrokeshire-based Daioni exports organic UHT plain and flavoured milk, selling to a local distributor in Shanghai, who then sells the products throughout mainland China, and a distributor in Hong Kong.