Opening up of China for NI pork exports huge: Foster
Northern Ireland's pork industry has been given the green light to begin exports to China.
The approval issued by the Chinese authorities could be worth up to £10m to pork producers here, according to officials at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
The local pork sector will benefit from a UK-wide export deal with China that will bring a £200m boost to the industry and support 1,500 jobs, officials said.
Demand for UK food and drink continues to grow in the Asian powerhouse.
The total value of exports rose by a third to £438m in 2016.
In Northern Ireland, two slaughterhouses and two cold stores have now been given the go-ahead to begin exports to China.
That nation's decision on access for UK pork represents a major boost to farmers and processors here, according to DAERA's chief vet Robert Huey.
He said: "It will expand markets and secure jobs.
"By recommending approval for Northern Ireland, the Chinese authorities have recognised the rigorous standards we have in place to produce our high-quality, safe and wholesome pork.
"We place a clear emphasis on traceability at the heart of our production and processing and recognise that a joined-up, safe and efficient food supply is essential."
The Chinese decision is hugely significant, said DUP leader Arlene Foster (below).
The former First Minister added: "It is the culmination of a long process and a great deal of work by many, and in particular by David Simpson MP, Michelle McIlveen MLA and Diane Dodds MEP.
"This is an important milestone for the pork sector in Northern Ireland which ultimately ought to deliver financially for all involved.
"My hope is within the next few years this will pave the way for more access to the Chinese market for beef products in particular.
"This announcement again demonstrates how important it is to have devolved government playing its role, but also the need to have strong representation in Westminster."
Northern Ireland Office Minister Chloe Smith said the approval was "an exciting example of what the Northern Ireland agri-food sector and, indeed, export market can be - and of what we can achieve in terms of trade, jobs and new opportunities".