Defra secretary Elizabeth Truss’ trade mission aims to boost pork exports to China

Eleven-week-old weaner pigs. Picture: Denise Bradley

Eleven-week-old weaner pigs. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

A taste for pigs' trotters in China could help open valuable export opportunities for East Anglian pork producers, said a Norfolk MP after returning from a trade mission to the Far East.

Environment minister Elizabeth Truss, also the MP for South West Norfolk, led a delegation last week to explore opportunities to sell British produce to the valuable specialist food market in China – expected to be worth £39bn this year.

Food producers on the trip included Cranswick Country Foods, which has a base in Watton, and is already the biggest exporter of pork from the UK, with sales to China worth £24m each year.

Ms Truss said Chinese consumers had developed a taste for quality British pork, but also for the trotters – often a wasted by-product in this country.

'There are huge opportunities in China and pork is a fantastic Norfolk product,' she said. 'It is the quality of the meat, and also the high standards of food safety that the Chinese particularly like.

'One big opportunity is pork trotters, which is a very big product in China but not something we eat in the UK, so it gives an opportunity for producers to get value for the whole carcass and earn more revenue, which is fantastic news for the pork industry.

'I was delighted to be joined on our latest trade visit by Cranswick Country Foods, who are already blazing a trail with their exports to China. With UK exports of food and drink to China having more than doubled in the past five years there are plenty of opportunities for businesses across the country to follow in their footsteps.'

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Cranswick employs almost 8,000 people across 13 UK production facilities, and sources about 70pc of its contracted pigs within Norfolk, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire.

Trading director Nick Mitchell said: 'For us, the visit was an opportunity to strengthen our business in China even further, but also to push for the market to be opened up even more to allow us to export pigs' trotters, which we think could potentially bring in further financial benefits to be shared with the rest of the UK's pig producers.'

Ms Truss said although the UK's pork exports to China have more than doubled in the last year, the growing market also held opportunities for dairy farmers.

She said: 'There is a growing taste for dairy, with children eating a lot more of it than their parents did. By 2018 China will be the largest food importer in the world so it is a huge market and they don't necessarily have the land to produce all the food that is required.'

Meanwhile, the UK's first agriculture and food counsellor in China has been appointed to help increase the UK's growing food and drink exports to the country.

Karen Morgan, based in the British embassy in Beijing, will represent the interests of UK businesses already exporting quality British food and drink produce to China, and firms looking to open new trade links.

The new role, made possible with funding from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), will involve identifying opportunities for new markets and further developing our excellent relationship with key Chinese authorities.

Ms Morgan, who currently leads Defra's competitive farming team, will take up the post in the spring. She said: 'It is a very exciting time to be in China, where the opportunities for British exports are vast and growing all the time.

'I look forward to building close relationships both with British companies and the Chinese authorities and hope that we can really grasp some of the market opportunities in coming months and years.'

Ms Truss added: 'The appointment of our first agriculture and food counsellor in Beijing will strengthen our trade and negotiating presence in China and help UK businesses take advantage of the vast opportunities the Chinese market represents.'

To find out more about export opportunities in China, visit