Sector urged to cash in on the China boom

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Just days after a major deal was struck to export pork to China farmers and food businesses are being urged to explore opportunities with the country.

In a deal touted to be worth up to £50m a year, Britain will now be able to export to the Far East economic powerhouse, something that could potentially be a huge boon to Yorkshire’s sizeable pig farming industry.

NFU’s Hayley Campbell-Gibbons said there are “real opportunities” for UK growers to supply produce to China, home to 20 per cent of the world’s population.

She said: “In 1980 the only winter vegetable available in China was cabbage. By 2000 the total vegetable production in China had more than doubled to reach 500 million tonnes; providing the Chinese population with a huge variety of fruits and vegetables and, in doing so, raising domestic consumption.

“The boom in Chinese production has been attributed to technological innovations which have enabled growers to produce a wider variety of produce – such as tomatoes and cucumbers, which are grown under glass with outside temperatures of minus 20 degrees.

“Where the UK is concerned, China believes it has more to offer – including cherries, garlic, grapes, ginger and mingbean leaf. In return, it believes that there are real opportunities for UK growers to supply produce to China, or even set up seed companies there.

“With the Chinese government slashing tariffs to encourage imports and help meet the growing demands of the Chinese middle class, it’s arguably a good time for UK businesses to increase their trade with the country.”

Agriculture has been identified as a priority sector by the Chinese government but the country has only limited land and resources, with the country possessing 50 per cent less useable agricultural land than the global average.

Furthermore, its population is predicted to grow by a further 100 million by 2020, meaning it will need produce from exporting countries.

“To put it into perspective, securing just one per cent of the Chinese market is equivalent to having a 20 per cent share of the UK market,” said Ms Campbell-Gibbons.

The deal to open China’s borders to further imports of British food was struck following a six-day trade mission led by Farming Minister Jim Paice.

Among the firms which accompanied him were Driffield-based pig breeding and genetics firm ACMC, who have been exporting breeding stock to the Far East for years.

Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, said that much of the pork that will be exported is from the so-called ‘fifth quarter’ of the pig such as offal and trotters which tends not to be consumed in the UK.

He said: “With many pig farmers and Cranswick’s Preston facility in my constituency, pork exports are an important part of the local economy. I’m delighted that we’ve secured this deal so we can reverse the long-term decline in UK pork production which occurred under the last Government.”