A British Pig Executive (BPEX) delegation is visiting Beijing at the end of the month to encourage British exports to China, the world's biggest market for pork.
"China is the single biggest market for pig meat in the world," said BPEX chairman Stewart Houston. "It is not one to which we have had access because we have not had a formal trading relationship with China.
"Not only is it the largest single market in the world but China has one of the fastest growing economies which means people are eating more pork. It is also attractive because they tend to put a high value on parts of the carcase which we under-value."
Houston said that the objective of the trip is to build on the contacts we made at the World Pork Congress last year. "We want to explain to the Chinese industry and particularly the officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, the safety, security and quality of British pig meat and breeding stock," he said.
The pork industry has been through some troubling times, though the situation has improved in recent weeks. A supply glut of pork coupled with price rises led the European Commission to end temporary export subsidies last month, though some pig producers in the UK are concerned that lower food prices pledged by major supermarkets will drag the industry back into trouble.
Pork processors are worried that this drive to reduce food prices further could reverse the recent upturn in the industry. According to Farmers Weekly, the farm-to-retail price spread has dropped from 284 per cent to 271 per cent for fresh pork over the past six months, while the bacon spread has narrowed from 374 per cent to 335 per cent over the same period.
While in China, the delegation will be visiting Shineway Foods, a huge pork processor. The firm's president, Wan Long, was a speaker at last year's World Pork Congress. The delegation will also be talking to industry organisations and government officials, including representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The trip follows on from initial work done when BPEX hosted part of a visit by two Chinese government vets who were shown the whole production chain - breeding firms, producers, abattoirs and processors. BPEX claims that both vets were impressed by the quality of traceability within the British pig meat supply chain as well as the protocols and procedures within abattoirs.