Four sites in the UK, located in Northern Ireland and England, have been approved to export beef to China, with the first shipments expected to arrive there by the end of 2019, ending the 20-year ban on the product that followed the BSE outbreak.
A protocol agreement between the UK and China was signed in June of this year following a five-year process. This process included inspections and inward missions hosted by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) as well as other industry bodies including UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "Sealing this landmark agreement with China is huge news for our world-renowned food and farming industry, meaning more people across the globe can enjoy British beef.
"Today’s milestone marks another step towards unlocking the industry’s full potential, and reflects our ambition to maximise trading opportunities for British produce across the world as the UK leaves the EU."
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss added: “Chinese diners can now enjoy the best beef in the world. I’m delighted that our dedicated UK producers can now sell quality products to one of the world’s largest economies, supporting local jobs and bringing millions of pounds to the UK economy each year.
"This is another step forward in realising our global trading ambitions with unbeatable British food. As we leave the European Union, we will continue to break down market access barriers to make it easier for UK businesses to trade across the world."
On the announcement, AHDB international market development director Dr Phil Hadley said: “This is a great end to a very successful year for our red meat exports. This new agreement is fantastic news for our beef processors who will now have access to another market outside of the EU.
“We continue to work collaboratively with government to create new opportunities for our red meat exports and today’s announcement is a testament to the persistence and hard work of all involved.
“We look forward to seeing the first shipments of beef arrive in China and hope to replicate the success of our pork exports in the beef sector.”
Speaking to Global Meat News, Hadley said the British beef would be aimed at the premium market. “Because of the price premium of our product, it’ll be targeted at high-end restaurants and hotels, with the product being sold as an experience.”
Hadley clarified that the timing of the agreement had nothing to do with Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU nor the rise in African Swine Fever in China.
He added that work on gaining sheep meat access to China was “ongoing” with a technical visit being conducted by a Chinese delegation during the summer.