British beef and lamb could soon be heading to China in an agreement that could be worth up to £120m to the UK economy each year.
Owen Paterson welcomed a new agreement between Defra and the Chinese authorities to begin negotiations on opening export routes for British beef and lamb suppliers to China, achieved during UK and China trade talks hosted by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office.
This landmark agreement is the first time that talks have opened since restrictions relating to BSE were imposed in the 1980s.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said: “This landmark agreement will be a great boost to British food exporters, a major part of our long-term economic plan, and could be worth millions to our economy. British beef and lamb is excellent quality so I welcome the opportunity to begin talks with the Chinese government to open trade routes for these great products once again.”
With UK food and drink exports soaring to £18.9bn in 2013 – a marked increased from 2009’s figure of £16.4bn – this agreement is the latest step in four years of record food and drink export growth.
It follows Owen Paterson’s successful visit to China last year with the Prime Minister, where he secured an export deal for pork products worth up to £45m for the UK and his meeting with Minister Zhi on 1st April.
UK food and drink exports to China were worth £257m last year. Defra ministers have frequently visited priority overseas markets such as China to champion the best of British food.
Chairman of Eblex, John Cross said: “The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is a major step forward in our negotiations to help secure market access to China for our beef and lamb.
“This is something we have been working on for some time already, together with Government and a number of other agencies. It is a long haul project but the potential prize is very big for the UK.
“As the most rapidly growing market in the world for beef and lamb, China presents enormous opportunities for UK exporters. We very much welcome the latest developments and look forward to working with Government to take these negotiations forward.”