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China inquiry - why more could be done to maximise the vast export potential

21st Oct 2019 / By Alistair Driver

China will continue to offer huge opportunities for the UK pork sector, as long as the political environment remains supportive and the industry maintains its high production and biosecurity standards.

China 17These were among the key messages as the NPA submitted evidence to the International Trade Committee’s inquiry into UK-China trade.

You can view the submission here

The document, put together by NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker, highlights how the UK exported more than 80,000 tonnes of pork and offal to China, worth £77m, in 2018, with volumes rising again this year as Chins seeks to fill the hole left by its African swine fever outbreak. The Chinse pig herd has been reduced an estimated 40% so far this year, prompting a surge in import demand.

“This means that the opportunities for British pork exports in the short and medium terms are especially lucrative for British pig processors and farmers,” it says.

The document highlights the great potential to further grow this trade, but also the possible pitfalls that must be avoided if UK producers are to benefit from the opportunities.

On Brexit, for example, the document states that it represents ‘both an opportunity and threat to UK-China trade’.

“Exports in pork could not have happened were it not for the fact that that the UK provides high quality, traceable, safe products, from progeny to slaughter. The best way in which we can further promote our brand with export markets is by making sure that they are convinced that Brexit will not bring with it a reduction in food standards. The current uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the EU does not help this situation,” it states.

The NPA submission also highlights the uncertainty surrounding the continuation of current pork trade to China in the event of a Brexit no deal. It would be ‘devastating’ if the China trade was curtailed due to an ‘administrative oversight’ surrounding export health certificates, it points out.

The document also stresses the importance of the UK maintaining its notifiable disease free status, particularly with the current spread of ASF in Asia and Europe. The industry must be assured that our ability to protect the health of the national herd will not change after Brexit, the document adds.

“The UK should do all it can to prevent notifiable/exotic disease incursion by strengthening checks at major ports, increasing penalties for illegally imported products and increasing messaging to people coming into the country about the risks of importing meat products, even if legal. It is paramount that government takes a truly joined up approach to national biosecurity that links human and animal health requirements with trade,” its says.

It notes that while Defra has attempted to improve messaging on ASF at ports through a comprehensive communications campaign for travellers, UK Border Force has ‘sadly not recognised the importance of this and has to date done little to present or promote any of the materials provided’.

The NPA believes the Government could do more to support the wider industry and individual businesses market British pork in China. Relying on ‘Brand Britain’ alone is not enough. For example, more could be done by Government and industry to support individual farmers going to trade shows in China.

“The NPA would encourage government to commit greater resource along with industry to further promote new markets and to develop a joined up long term strategic export promotion plan for both pork and pig genetics,” the document adds.

NPA comment 

EdBarkerNPAEd concluded: “With our submission to this important inquiry, we wanted to highlight that there is so much more that could be done to help UK producers take advantage of this very lucrative market.

“One of the barriers for some time has been abattoir approvals. In the past few months we have seen encouraging signs that the process is being speeded up, with a number of new plants approved. We would like to see further progress on this.  

“To maintain this trade, it is also vital that maintain our high production and biosecurity measures, so China continues to have confidence in the product and we stay clear of diseases like ASF.”