British cheeses on a cheeseboard with knife(c) Rex

Food exporters have been boosted after the government announced the appointment of the first UK food ambassador to China.

Karen Morgan has been appointed to help increase the UK’s growing food and drink exports to China – a market expected to be worth £39bn a year.

She will be based in the British embassy in Beijing and will represent the interests of UK businesses already exporting quality British food and drink produce to China, and firms looking to open new trade links.

Her job will involve identifying opportunities for new markets and further developing the UK’s relationship with key Chinese authorities.

“This new post represents a long-term strategic levy investment by AHDB, together with our continued close co-operation with the China Business Council.”
Peter Kendall, AHDB chairman

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Ms Morgan’s role, made possible with significant funding from levy body the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), will help British firms tap into China’s growing interest in speciality foods.

The announcement follows a trip to China last week by Defra secretary Liz Truss.

Ms Truss said: “The UK has a worldwide reputation for producing top-class, quality food and drink and we are increasingly seeing British firms taking advantage of the growing demand in China for our produce, from whisky and pork to Yorkshire tea.

“The appointment of our first agriculture and food counsellor in Beijing will strengthen our trade and negotiating presence in China and help UK businesses take advantage of the vast opportunities the Chinese market represents.”

Ms Morgan, who currently leads Defra’s Competitive Farming team, will take up her new role in the spring.

She said: “I look forward to building close relationships both with British companies and the Chinese authorities and hope we can really grasp some of the market opportunities in coming months and years.”

Welcoming her appointment, AHDB chairman Peter Kendall said: “This new post represents a long-term strategic levy investment by AHDB, together with our continued close co-operation with the China Business Council. 

“I know the AHDB export team is looking forward to working with Karen to expand our activities in China’s meat, livestock and dairy markets and to help create new opportunities for fresh produce and cereals.”

According to Defra, UK food and drink exports to China were worth £215m in 2013, up from £136m in 2012. AHDB estimates the value of pigmeat trade alone to greater China in 2014 at £50m. 

Defra China exports infographic

Infographic courtesy of Defra

Ms Morgan was private secretary to farming ministers in the current coalition government as well as the previous government.

She worked closely with the AHDB and other industry organisations in leading the Green Food Project and Future of Farming Review, and more recently in shaping the future delivery of the Common Agricultural Policy.