Aspirations to export lamb from the UK to China are a step closer after Chinese government officials arrived in the country this week on a fact-finding mission.

A delegation from the General Administrations of Customs of the People’s Republic of China arrived in the UK for a 10-day visit, which ended on Wednesday (September 25).

During the mission, they were given a tour of a sheep farm, abattoir, feed mill and attended a feed-testing workshop in a bid to better understand the disease control measures for sheep meat in the UK.

The visit forms part of ongoing work by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) alongside the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and meat levy bodies Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) as well as others including UKECP, to open the market for UK lamb.

It comes in the same week the UK’s chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss arrived in China with the AHDB to discuss the progress of beef and pork exports.

The Chinese authorities signed a protocol agreement in June to export beef for the first time in more than 20 years since the BSE ban. And since gaining access in 2012, China has become the main market in the region for pork exports.

Demand was particularly strong in 2016, with UK exports valued at £43.3 million with offal exports worth a further £31.4 million.

AHDB international market development director Dr. Phil Hadley said the visit was incredibly successful and marked a major step forward in the UK’s ambitions to gain market access.

“This week’s visit was hugely significant as we look to increase our red meat exports to the all-important Chinese market,” Dr. Hadley added.

“We are making great strides in opening the doors to sheep meat and we will continue to work with Defra and other bodies to make this ambition a reality.”