Karro Food Group and Dunbia in Northern Ireland have been provisionally approved for export to China, although final approval will only come once the two companies have completed additional work at their factories. The approval is expected to result in new export sales of 12,000t a year, and be worth £10 million a year to the economy.
The Chinese government’s provisional approval, granted after a long inspection process, means authorised plants can soon sell heads, trotters, stomachs, hearts and bones. Chinese officials visited abattoirs in Northern Ireland as part of the inspection process, while Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister, Michelle O’Neill, visited China several times.
Ms O’Neill said the start of exports would be “a major boost to the industry”. Expansion of the pig industry is a key element of the Northern Ireland Executive’s Going for Growth strategy, designed to increased the value of Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry. It has a target of increasing the sow herd by 40% to 53,000 by 2020.
Cookstown-based Karro Food Group said that, in time, there will be more jobs to cope with the additional exports.
The chief executive of Karro Food Group, Seamus Carr, said approval for direct access to China would have a significant impact on the business, giving it a potential increase in turnover of about 10%.
And he said he hoped to pass some of the extra profit back to farmers: “There will be a premium, and what I say to farmers is that we will share that with them.”