China is fast-tracking the approval of British pork plants for export, with the expectation that pork from a number of additional plants will be heading to China by the end of this year.
The Government said China had recently approved five UK pork plants for export (two slaughterhouses and three cold stores), which will build on a market already worth £70 million per year. It said it looked forward to further approval of qualified UK pork plants and cold stores by the end of the 2019.
The approvals are subject to Food Standards Agency inspections.
The comments on the pork plants came as the Government announced on Monday that access to China for beef exports had been formally approved, with the first shipments expected before the end of the year.
The UK-China Beef Protocol, signed by Farming Minister Robert Goodwill and Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming, could be worth an estimated £230 million for British cattle producers over the first five years, the Government predicted.
The approval, following a recent visit by Chinese officials, has come sooner than expected, reflecting the urgency within China to secure meat imports to fill the huge gap created by its devastating African swine fever outbreak.
In a statement, the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) which is helping to facilitate pork exports to China, said it was expecting formal confirmation of the five additional pork approvals ‘very soon’.
Between December and March, it submitted a total of 10 applications for UK pork sites for Chinese approval. These included for three additional pork processing plants as well as four additional approvals for the export of trotters and three additional cold stores.
It said: “In the past we have had to wait months for these applications to be considered and for additional questions and application forms to be needed. These have been followed by individual Chinese Government inspection and subsequent approval of each operation by Chinese officials.
“As a result of the engagement by the UK CVO at OIE in Paris and the visit of the Defra Permanent Secretary to Beijing there has been a significant ‘fast tracking’ of the approval process which in the past has taken several years to complete.
“The remaining approval applications for additional exports of trotters and one further processing plant approval will be followed up during a UKECP visit to Beijing at the end of this month. This progress represents a considerable advance on our expectations at the turn of the year and will build on the existing trade for UK Pork to China which is valued at £70m a year.”
Speaking at the NPA Producer Group meeting on Monday, British Pig Association chief executive Marcus Bates, who is part of the UKECP, said the expected fast-tracking of plant approvals was ‘great news’ for the UK pork sector.
The number of plants, including some major ones, still not approved for export to China has been cited as one of the factors holding the UK pork sector back as increased Chinese demand boosts the global pig sector. He predicted that, as long as things go according to plan from this point, it should mean more pork shipments to China, by the end of this year.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies welcomed the news, which she said should help boost the domestic pork market. “But I hope that British pig producers see some of the additional revenue rather than it simply lining the processors bottomless pockets still further,” she added.
The development is particularly timely as Chinese demand for pork imports is expected to increase from July-August as the impact of ASF on China’s breeding herd feeds through.