China has lifted its longstanding ban on exports of beef from the UK, in a landmark move for British producers estimated to be worth £250m in the first five years alone, the UK Government has announced.
More than 20 years after the Chinese government first imposed a ban on British beef in the wake of the BSE outbreak, today’s milestone is the culmination of several years of site inspections and negotiations between UK and Chinese government officials.
China is currently the UK’s eighth largest export market for agri-food, with over £560m worth of food and drink bought by Chinese consumers last year.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “This is fantastic news for our world-class food and farming industry and shows we can be a truly outward looking Britain outside the European Union. It is the result of painstaking and collaborative work by industry and the Defra team over many years.
“Today’s milestone will help to unlock UK agriculture’s full potential and is a major step to forging new trading relationships around the globe.”
The UK’s food exports were worth more than £22bn in 2017 - a new record - with food and drink businesses now selling products to 217 international markets.
Today’s announcement allows official market access negotiations to begin, a process which the Government said typically takes around three years.
Prime Minister Theresa May embarked on a trade mission to China earlier this year and in April, a Chinese inspection visit was hosted by Defra, the Food Standards Agency and other government agencies and industry groups.
The announcement that China’s ban had been lifted was welcomed by the National Farmers’ Union.
North York Moors farmer Richard Findlay, the union’s livestock board chairman, said: “This is clearly very positive news for British beef producers, who now have the opportunity to supply one of the biggest markets in the world. However, we have to remember this announcement is the start of negotiations to secure access to the demanding Chinese market. The NFU will support and work with Government and industry to deliver access for the beef sector as soon as practically possible.
“British beef is produced to some of the highest production and animal welfare standards in the world and as we look ahead to life outside of the EU, this is an important step to taking the British brand to new markets.”