Northern Ireland has been provisionally recommended for approval to export pork to China.
Welcoming the announcement as a step forward and a boost to the local agri-food industry, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said she was delighted that China’s certification agency, the CNCA has announced its intention to approve plants in Northern Ireland to export pork subject to them completing some remedial actions identified as part of their audit earlier this year.
She said her officials are working closely with the two pork processors to ensure this work is progressed expeditiously and to a very high standard.
Minister O’Neill continued: “This welcome step forward follows my third visit to China in June which was focused on negotiating these vital pork approvals. I am pleased that my efforts have borne fruit. Securing approval was also made possible by us hosting two inward inspections by Chinese officials in April of this year.”
Illustrating the benefits to the pork industry of the north, the Minister added: “The commencement of pork exports to China will represent a major boost for the local pork industry which has been seeking to gain access to this market for several years. It will also provide lasting long term benefits to the wider agri-food sector and to the economy of the north as a whole. I also look forward to the north being able to extend this trade in the future to cover the export of pig trotters and additional pork products, which are not readily consumable on the domestic market. This will add value to the carcase for producers and processors alike.
“I, and my Department, continue to invest much time and energy into opening new markets to expand the agri-food industry in the north and I look forward to making more positive announcements on market opportunities in the future.”
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has also welcomed confirmation that two NI pork plants have been provisionally recommended for approval to export to China.
Mr Bell said: “I have just returned from a week-long trade mission in China, during which I raised this important issue with the British Ambassador, UKTI representatives and the Ministry of Commerce. Both I and my predecessor Arlene Foster have been working tirelessly to raise awareness within the Chinese government about the quality and safety of Northern Ireland produce.
“There is huge potential for Northern Ireland in this huge marketplace, which is why our local companies have participated in Food Hotel China with Invest NI for the past four years. There is no quick fix to doing business in China; relationships and trust have to be built up over time. Our companies have been doing that through various trade missions, including Food Hotel China, and are now beginning to see tangible benefits.
“Today’s announcement by China’s certification agency, the CNCA, is further proof that our food companies are beginning to gain traction in the market and this should significantly boost our economy in the near future.”
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has pressed for more access to global markets for Northern Ireland agri-food produce
Ms Ritchie added: “Following renewed and repeated representations and meetings with the EFRA Secretary of State, Liz Truss regarding the need to enable Northern Ireland food processors to export pork (particularly the 5th quarter of the pig) to China, I am pleased that considerable progress has been made in this matter, and that a provisional licence has now been issued which will allow pig trotters to be exported to China.
“The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Liz Truss visited China some weeks ago to support the two week long Food is GREAT campaign in China and brought with her the largest ever delegation from Northern Ireland and Britain to the Food and Hotel China trade show. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs informed me in a Parliamentary written answer that she signed agreements to open the markets for UK barley and pigs trotters worth up to £190million over five years, and discussed the forward plan for opening up the markets for poultry, beef and lamb. The Secretary of State also shared priorities with the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister of Water Resources and agreed programmes of closer collaboration.
“I am now pleased to learn that the provisional licence has been granted to export pork to China and hope that this will be fully enabled at a later stage,” the MP added.
“Furthermore, it is now important that additional new access global markets in North and Central America are opened up for other agric-food produce. This means that the processing of certificates for licence purposes must be accelerated and also that exploration and investigation of new markets must take place at a greater level of speed. To do this, more resources must be invested in the export division of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Division in England. As MP and Member of the EFRA Select Committee, I will continue to pursue this matter with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and hope that it will be actively pursued by the local Minister for Agriculture in Northern Ireland with EFRA.”