An agreement has been reached between China and the UK to allow British beef access to the Chinese market, it has emerged.

Potentially worth up to an estimated £230 million for British producers in the first five years, the deal comes more than 20 years after the Chinese Government imposed a ban on UK imports of beef in 1996.

The UK-China Beef Protocol was signed today by Farming Minister Robert Goodwill and the Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming as part of the tenth Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) between the UK and China, securing market access for UK beef exporters by the end of 2019.

Farming Minister Robert Goodwill welcomed the agreement, stating:

“This is a major coup for our world-class food and farming industry, and a landmark move which could be worth £230 million for British business in the next five years alone.

Today’s milestone reflects our ambition to maximise new trading opportunities across the world and become a truly Global Britain as we leave the EU.

The announcement comes after China recently approved five British pork plants to export products to China, which will build on a market which is already worth £70 million per year.

Further approval of qualified UK pork plants is expected by the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by the end of 2019.

China is currently the UK’s eighth largest export market for food and drink, with more than £610 million worth of products bought by Chinese consumers last year.

The UK-China Beef Protocol is the culmination of several years of site inspections and engagement between UK and Chinese government officials, according to Defra.

China’s ban was lifted in June last year when market access engagement for UK beef exports began.

The announcement follows an inspection hosted last week by Defra, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Food Standards Agency, DAERA in Northern Ireland, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP), in conjunction with beef farmers and food business operators, a statement from Defra added.

This effort was facilitated by policy and trade teams at the Department for International Trade, both in assisting talks with Chinese officials, and supporting Chinese delegations visiting the UK.

The UK’s food and drink exports were worth more than £22 billion last year, with food and drink businesses selling their products to 217 markets.