£45m bonanza as Northern Irish pig farmers land foothold in China
Pig farmers in Northern Ireland are to benefit from a new multi-million pound trade deal signed in China by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The UK has secured an agreement from China to supply exports of pig semen for breeders, in a deal which could be worth as much as £45m to the industry.
Britain is also lobbying Beijing to be allowed to export the "fifth quarter" of the pig – including trotters, intestines, head, ears and eyes, which are waste products in the UK pork industry but are widely eaten by Chinese diners.
Exports of trotters could be worth as much as £7.5m a year to the industry in the UK.
Four artificial insemination centres in England and Northern Ireland are expected to start exporting fresh and frozen semen early in the new year.
Robert Overend of Deerpark Pedigree Pigs in Bellaghy, Co Londonderry, which already exports to the Philippines, Thailand and the USA, said he was delighted at the agreement.
He opened the first privately owned artificial insemination centre for pigs in Ireland in 1985.
"There have been lots of negotiations and we have already had Chinese vets at our premises, inspecting our labs and breeding facilities," he said.
"British pig genetics would be considered the best in the world and the Chinese are looking for a fast-growing pig that will have very good food conversion, in that it doesn't eat as much, so it is cheaper to rear and when it is slaughtered, the meat is very lean."
He added: "The Chinese are sensible people, they eat all parts of the animal.
"As well as taking out live pigs and semen, we hope that firms here would be allowed to export what is called the 'fifth quarter' – the tails, head, ears and intestines, which are valuable products that we don't use.
"The pork and pig industry in the UK has been suffering because feed is too expensive and pork and bacon is not expensive enough. This deal could be very good news for the industry and for a company like us.
"If the Chinese were able to buy our products, it could represent hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of business a year."