Shanghai© Imaginechina/Rex

Defra spent more than £34,000 of taxpayers’ money on a ministerial trip to promote UK food and drink exports to China.

Details of the cost of the food trade mission were revealed following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

Defra secretary Liz Truss led the mission to promote British food and drink in China with a team of government officials from 11-16 January.

The total bill for the trip, funded by the taxpayer, was £34,044.30.

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These costs included more than £16,000 for three business-class return flights to Beijing, priced £5,369.36 per person.

Two economy-class return flights to Beijing cost more than £7,800, at £3,905.86 per person.

Three business-class return flights from Beijing to Shanghai cost Defra more than £1,000, at £335.30 per person. While two economy return flights to the same destination cost £272.60 in total.

The group of five stayed for two nights at the five-star Rosewood Beijing and two nights at the five-star Portman Hotel, Shanghai. The hotels cost £172.50 and £148 per person per night, respectively.

During the trip, Defra paid £2,550 for the services of an interpreter and car/coach travel cost £348. Also, more than £2,700 was spent on meals for the Chinese guests.

Commenting on the costs, John O’Connell, director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Every time a minister goes away on a ‘trade mission’ there’s always a degree of scepticism that it’s a glorified jolly.

“Defra needs to keep the public updated on the results of the mission and whether or not it’s delivered value for money for taxpayers.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “China is set to become the world’s biggest food import market by 2018, which is of vital importance for the future of our food and farming sector and we are fully committed to taking advantage of this growth.

“Through our trade mission to China we were able to take forward negotiations with China on further opening the country to our exports, which has the potential to unlock £800m of new business.

“The secretary of state and the food and farming industry delegation found huge enthusiasm for British products in China and we expect to see new deals for UK businesses over the coming months.”