Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson Harold McKee has challenged DAERA officials about why greater progress has not been made regarding the export of pork by-products to China.
Harold McKee, the UUP MLA for South Down, said:
“During the last meeting of Stormont’s DAERA Committee I sought an update from the Permanent Secretary Noel Laverty on what progress had been made with the export of so-called fifth quarter pig parts – such as ears and trotters - to China. Whilst the British consumer generally turn their noses up at these parts, they are savoured by the Chinese and therefore it makes absolute sense that we capitalise on this new and exciting market.
“When the initial announcement was made last year that we had obtained approval for exporting certain by-products to an expanding market in Asia, it was the culmination of a long and arduous process. Much of the credit lay with two local companies, Dunbia in Dungannon and Karro Food Group in Cookstown, for their investment and commitment through meeting Chinese officials.
“Products that were often considered as waste have suddenly became items for potential export, thereby increasing the value of the carcass which is good news for local processors and pig farmers.
“The agri-food industry is one of our growth industries, unfortunately however the elation of the initial statement has dimmed with the passage of time and what many pig farmers now consider as excessive delays. I have spoken to many pig farmers over recent weeks and the recurring message I am hearing is given that the Northern Ireland Executive appears to be sitting on its hands.
“China is paying up to £5 per pig to producers in England, Scotland, Wales and ROI with another £5 to the processor, however we are continuing to discard the products locally. Given that there are 21,000 pigs slaughtered every week here, if a final deal could be reached it would result in an additional £210,000 per week as opposed to a cost to the producer, processor and environment in disposing of the fifth quarter. This is an absolute waste of not only produce but income for a sector that has been facing growing pressures.
“Whilst Departmental officials denied that we are sitting on our hands, citing their regular contact with China every week, that will come as little comfort to the farmers who are seeing valuable produce being discarded every week whilst enviously watching other nearby countries fully utilising this new market.
“I will continue to keep pressing the issue through Stormont in order to ensure China gives final approval to the veterinary inspections as soon as possible.”