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Northern Ireland to export pork to China after two plants approved

Northern Ireland pork farmers could soon be exporting to China, the Agriculture Minister has said.

The Chinese certification agency, CNCA, has announced its intention to approve two processing plants, Michelle O'Neill has announced.

The move follows two inspections by Chinese officials in April.

Ms O'Neill said: "This is a welcome step forward.

"The commencement of pork exports to China will represent a major boost for the local pork industry which has been seeking to gain access to this market for several years. It will also provide lasting long term benefits to the wider agri-food sector and to the economy of the north as a whole.

"I also look forward to the north being able to extend this trade in the future to cover the export of pig trotters and additional pork products, which are not readily consumable on the domestic market.

"This will add value to the carcase for producers and processors alike."

Ms O'Neill has visited China three times during her time in office, most recently in June when discussions were focused on opening the new export markets.

China is expected to become the world's leading consumer of pig meat on a per capita basis, surpassing the European Union, by 2022.

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell, who has recently returned from a two-week trade mission in China, has also welcomed the announcement.

He said: "There is huge potential for Northern Ireland in this huge marketplace, which is why our local companies have participated in Food Hotel China with Invest NI for the past four years.

"There is no quick fix to doing business in China; relationships and trust have to be built up over time. Our companies have been doing that through various trade missions, including Food Hotel China, and are now beginning to see tangible benefits."

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