£5bn export opportunities for UK organic food firms

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese consumers are looking for food they can trust, says Soil Association senior certification manager Emma Yeats
Chinese consumers are looking for food they can trust, says Soil Association senior certification manager Emma Yeats

Related tags Soil association International trade Organic food Germany China

A potential £5bn export market to China has been opened for UK organic food and drink manufacturers, following a Soil Association deal with China’s Organic Food Development Centre (OFDC).

“It will mainly be food manufacturers and processed food businesses that benefit from the deal, such as baby food and other high-quality processed food producers,” ​Emma Yeats, Soil Association senior certification manager told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

The Soil Association made the deal with OFDC, which is its Chinese equivalent, this week. It said it would make exporting organic food and drinks to China cheaper and simpler for UK Soil Association certified producers, following an agreed set of standards.  

‘Cheaper and simpler’

Consumers in China were looking for quintessentially British products, such as whisky and cheese, as well as items like baby food, said Yeats. “The Chinese are also taking more of an interest in where and how their food is produced, which is driving the organic market there,” ​she said.

“They are looking for food they can trust and they are also looking for logos, such as ‘produced in the EU’ and the Soil Association logo.”

OFDC standards are similar to the EU’s regulations for organic production and meant UK food businesses would have to do very little to make their products comply. “There’s likely to be an equivalent standard between the EU and China in the future, which will further improve trade,” ​said Yeats.

Xingji Xiao, OFDC director, said: “We think the partnership is good and very important for our collaboration and can help us promote our mutual organic programme.”

Export to Korea

The Soil Association also gained approval from the Korean government to export UK organic products there.

Both partnerships are part of the Soil Association Certification’s Export Support Programme, which is working to create new international business opportunities for Soil Association certified businesses.   ​  

Meanwhile, global organic sales grew to £43bn in 2012, while sales in the UK grew by 2.8%​ to £1.79bn, following five years of annual decline.  “The deals with the OFDC and Korea provide an opportunity for the UK organic market to grow further through exports,” ​added Yeats.

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