The first consignments of pork from Cranswick's primary processing facility in Northern Ireland are expected to leave for China over the next two weeks, AgriLand can reveal.

On Tuesday, November 24, the firm's half-year report revealed it had voluntarily suspended exports to China from the plant in late August following the major Covid-19 cluster broke out at the site in Ballymena, Co. Antrim.

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Cranswick was forced to close the site for 14 days with all employees required to isolate for the two weeks.

However, it also took the decision to “voluntarily temporarily suspend” the site’s China export licence.

First consignments

The General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) has now given permission for Cranswick to start exporting again from the site.

However, the news came reached the team at around 5:00am UK time on Tuesday (November 24), after the financial report had already been filed, so was not included in the update.

Taking around six weeks to arrive, it's expected to be early 2021 before the first consignments will arrive.

The site in Ballymena typically processes between 10,000 and 12,000 pigs a week with fifth-quarter sales to China understood to be a key element of the site's viability.

'A substantial boost for NI pork'

Ulster Farmers' Union deputy president William Irvine said news the licence had been reinstated was a "substantial boost" for Northern Ireland’s pork sector.

“After a challenging number of weeks for the pig sector, this news has been very encouraging for our producers who were directly impacted by Cranswick Country Foods' closure earlier in the year," he said.

Credit must be given to the management and staff at Cranswick Country Foods and also DAERA’s veterinary service. In particular, deputy chief vet Perpetua McNamee, who worked diligently to restore this market and ensure business could resume as quickly as possible.

“Farmers are now benefitting from normal pricing levels after a period of decline and are looking forward to CCF’s exports to China getting underway again.”