The new trade, including fifth quarter cuts such as trotters, could generate more than £10M in sales for the Northern Ireland pork sector alone.
The chief veterinary officer Robert Huey said the shipments followed the completion of documentation following the approval of two slaughterhouses and two cold stores to export pork to China on August 11.
“Today’s announcement clears the way for pig producers here to capitalise on a significant global market,” said Huey. “It is the culmination of five years of DAERA [Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs], the Northern Ireland Bureau in China, Food Standards Agency and industry working in partnership to build trust with China in order to secure access to a very important market.”
‘Build trust with China’
The completion of the deal was an endorsement of the UK’s rigorous standards “which guarantee high-quality, safe and wholesome pork”, he added.
“Because we place a clear emphasis on traceability at the heart of production and processing, we are gaining a global reputation for delivering a joined up, safe and efficient food supply.”
The chef vet said the start of exports was a boost for not just for processors and farmers but also for the wider agri-food sector as it will expand the marketplace and protect jobs.
“We see this as the first of many opportunities for our agri-food industry and it is our intention to build up this trading relationship with China to enable our beef, poultry and other producers to access that market,” said Huey.
Northern Ireland Pork and Bacon Forum chief executive Deirdre McIvor said: “This is an exciting development as the potential for growth in this market is vast. The local pig farming industry makes a significant contribution to the agri-sector sustaining 400 farming families and 2,000 local jobs.
‘This Chinese approval’
“This Chinese approval is the culmination of years of collective support and work throughout the sector.”
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said China was a “very high” potential market for UK pig meat exports and was already the UK’s biggest customer outside the EU, importing 40,000t of UK pork and 36,000t of UK offal in 2016.
There was particular benefit to the industry in exporting fifth quarter products that have limited value in the UK but are prized in the Chinese market, said the board.
Its international market development director Dr Phil Hadley said: “I am delighted that we have secured this latest opportunity in what has been a long-term project involving collaboration across industry and government.