The UK pig industry has gained direct access to the Chinese fresh pig meat market after several years of negotiations, opening the way for a potential £50-million-a-year deal over the next few years, according to British Pig Executive International Manager Peter Hardwick.
Much of the exported pork will be offal, trotters, ears and other parts of the “fifth quarter” which British diners do not eat, but the Chinese do. However, Hardwick said he believes a growing demand for higher quality cuts in China will lead to more exports of this nature, as well. “This is a great shot in the arm for producers and processors here,” said Hardwick, who has been involved in the talks over the past six or seven years and has made several visits to China to meet industry leaders and health officials there.
The first consignment of British pig meat is already waiting to be dispatched by Tulip, the UK’s biggest producer. “China is the most lucrative grocery market in the world, and from fashion to food its rapidly expanding middle class has an appetite for Western goods," said UK agriculture minister Jim Paice. “In particular, they are eating more meat, and our top-quality producers have got huge opportunities to meet that demand and help our economic recovery.”
According to Hardwick, at least five British pig meat plants, or “establishments,” have been approved to export directly to business in China, and he said he expects trade to start within weeks. A representative of the British Pig Association is already in China to do business with the Chinese importers. The UK currently exports 27,000 metric tons of pig meat to Hong Kong every year, and while much of this meat is thought to end up in China, demand grew by 54 percent in 2011.
“This is a wonderful achievement and something we have been working towards for several years in close cooperation with Defra and the British embassy in Beijing," said British Pig Executive Chairman Stewart Houston. "The process has been a long one, but I know it will prove to be extremely worthwhile."