British farmers could be sending beef to China by 2021 after the country lifted a 22-year ban on beef imports.
The move, which is likely to help carcass values by increasing demand for cuts not favoured by British consumers, is still subject to negotiations on market access, which are expected to take three years.
China took in almost 700,000t of the meat last year, and is now the world’s second-largest beef importer after the US.
As recently as 2010 it took in just 23,000t, but consumer demand is soaring for the meat, seen as a leaner, healthier alternative to pork.
Termination of the UK ban, which was put in place at the time of the BSE crisis, comes after a successful inspection visit in April 2018 by Chinese officials.
Last year, Chinese consumers purchased more than £560m worth of British food and drink and the AHDB suggests that beef could add £250m of additional value in the first five years of trading.
Phil Hadley, AHDB international market development director, said he was delighted with the lifting of the ban. He drew a parallel with British exports of pork to China, which began in 2012 and had grown to a £74m market just four years later.
“Today’s news follows years of collaboration between the AHDB, government and industry to make this a reality and we now look forward to seeing UK beef exported to the country for the first time in over 20 years,” he said.
“We will now begin the work on the export protocols and approvals to allow commercial shipments to begin.”