Two pork processors in Northern Ireland are among a select few in the UK given the green light to ship products to China.
One of the UK's largest food producers - Cranswick - has received official notification to start supplying pigs’ trotters to China, following a successful inspection by Chinese authorities.
Karro, in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, and Cranswick's plant in Ballymena, Co. Antrim, have been approved.
Both factories were previously granted market access for pork exports and now can actually ship products.
The two factories in Northern Ireland have also received the first ever approval to export all cuts of pork; including trotters.
Researchers at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) had identified China as a "very high" potential market for UK pig meat exports.
China is already the UK’s biggest customer outside the EU, importing 40,000t of UK pork and 36,000t of UK offal in 2016.
The deal to ship pork exports to China is estimated to be worth more than £10 million (€11.2 million) to the Northern Ireland economy.
The deal is expected to add value to the carcase for producers and processors alike.
The benefit to the industry in exporting the so-called ‘fifth-quarter’ is that the products that have limited value in the UK are prized in the Chinese market - increasing the usable percentage of the carcass.
Dr. Phil Hadley, international market development director, said: “I am delighted that we have secured this latest opportunity in what has been a long-term project involving collaboration across industry and government.
This is a significant step forward in our ambitions for China and stands to have a huge impact on the whole supply chain.
Five years of negotiations
Today’s notification comes after market access for pork products to China was announced in August.
Chief veterinary officer Robert Huey said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the Northern Irish pig industry.
"Following approval of two slaughterhouses and two cold stores to export pork to China on August 11, we had to wait while the administrative listing processes in China were being completed. This has now been done.
Today’s announcement clears the way for pig producers here to capitalise on a significant global market.
"It is the culmination of five years of DAERA, the Northern Ireland Bureau in China, Food Standards Agency and industry working in partnership to build trust with China, in order to secure access to a very important market.
“This is a ringing endorsement for our rigorous standards which guarantee high-quality, safe and wholesome pork.
"Because we place a clear emphasis on traceability at the heart of production and processing, we are gaining a global reputation for delivering a joined up, safe and efficient food supply.”