Deal may help open markets for beef and pork

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Hopefully, the confidence and supply agreement struck this week between the DUP and Conservative Party will bring closer the day when food processors in Northern Ireland can supply China with both beef and pork products.

Specific mention is made within the joint policy document that Northern Ireland will be directly facilitated by UK Embassies around the world, where trade matters are concerned.

Back in 2015, the Chinese government gave the green light to beef imports from the Republic of Ireland. And, of course, other regions of the UK have been supplying fresh pork products to China for quite some time.

Beef consumption levels are increasing significantly in China. And this trend looks set to gather further pace during the period ahead. Anything that serves to divert beef from the UK and other EU member states will help to bolster those European customers served by beef processors in Northern Ireland.

Thankfully, beef prices have strengthened since the beginning of the year. But given the total uncertainty that surrounds the now ongoing Brexit negotiations, who knows how long this situation can last for. New export opportunities are critically important for our livestock sectors. And, where beef and pork are concerned, China remains a number one priority.

That I am aware of, there is no technical or veterinary reason why Northern Irish pork or beef cannot be exported to China. This is why it is so important for the UK to mount a realistic diplomatic campaign, in order to get trade opportunities over the line for Northern Ireland, where China - and a host of other countries are concerned.

It is generally accepted that direct access to the Chinese market would serve to boost farmgate prices, so that day cannot come quickly enough.