AHDB opens up potential £20m Chinese barley export market

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UK barley can now be exported to China, thanks to an extraordinary industry effort spearheaded by AHDB.

This week in Beijing, Defra Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss will be signing a trade deal with China that will allow the UK to export assured barley to China.The deal will be the pinnacle of a project lasting more than five years and involving over 30 organisations across the UK barley supply chain. It means that the UK can now join a handful of countries worldwide which can tap into China’s 6Mt a year barley requirement.

Based on industry estimations, potential yearly barley exports are around 150,000 tonnes – a figure valued at £20m per year, meaning that over the next five years the deal has the potential to be worth £100m to the UK. Jane King, AHDB CEO, said: “This deal represents a vast amount of work by AHDB and its partners and a huge opportunity for farmers in the UK. Our staff have worked very hard on levy payers’ behalf to get this protocol off the ground and we look forward to seeing companies making the most of this new market access.”

AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds initiated the project in 2011, after it was revealed that barley could not be sent to China as no official protocol was in place. Working with a network of industry partners and contacts, AHDB managed a programme of activity to secure the necessary protocol.

The AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Exports team headed by Exports Manager Sarah Mann led negotiations with the Chinese authorities, with the aim of achieving approved supplier status. Following a written submission in the first stage of the process, a compliance visit by Chinese inspectors to inspect the UK barley supply chain was organised for June this year.

Jess Sloss, Technical Manager at Red Tractor, said: “We were delighted to be involved in such a momentous project which will benefit our farm assured members. The decision from China to start to import British barley is excellent news for our growers and for the economy. Through close collaboration with the industry and government we were able to show the Chinese delegation how UK assurance schemes can be trusted to deliver compliance against both UK and EU legislation and good practice. The delegation’s visit to a Red Tractor farm clearly demonstrated how the Red Tractor standards are applied in practice to crops in the field, grain store and on-farm transport ensuring food safety, environmental protection and traceability at the start of the assurance chain.”

The visit took in farms, stores and labs in England and Scotland to ‘walk the chain’ from farm to export, supported by growers, agronomists, trade representatives and certification bodies. Sarah Mann, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Exports Manager, said: “It is great news that all the hard work has paid off and the lucrative Chinese market is open to our levy payers. I have been really proud of the level of support we have managed to achieve across the industry, with everyone working together enthusiastically to make this a success. It highlights a key role AHDB has to play in the industry.”

With the protocol in place, the UK will be able to export assured barley to China. A guide outlining the requirements of the protocol to export UK barley to China, written by AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds in conjunction with industry and government bodies, will be available on cereals.ahdb.org.uk

Mike Hambly, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Exports Team outgoing Chairman, said: “Without doubt, my proudest achievement as Chairman has to be accreditation for the export of barley to the Chinese market. This has been particularly important if you look at the increase in barley production levels in the UK over the last two years. This is an exciting market opportunity for us and has taken a huge amount of work by the Exports team over a number of years to enable this to happen. It required involvement across the industry, from exporters through to trade bodies and all have worked with us to facilitate this great opportunity.”

A team led by Karen Morgan at the British Embassy in Beijing, funded by and representing AHDB across all sectors, provided support for the inspection visit and has been instrumental in keeping up momentum with AQSIQ (China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) to reach the final conclusion.

NFU Scotland Policy Manager, Peter Loggie said, “This is an important development for Scottish growers and the result of many years of hard work. With spring barley being Scotland’s biggest crop, having another important market opened up for UK barley is very encouraging. A £20 million per year business is certainly a good start – and we would hope to see that trade grow further. Scottish growers are appreciative of the effort AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds has put into this although the history of trying to get greater exports of grain, including barley, to China goes back more than 20 years to when Scottish growers Barclay Forrest and George Forbes were Chairmen of British Cereals Exports. The final chapter in this success story came as a result of an AHDB-hosted visit by Chinese officials who toured the UK, including Scotland, to inspect our barley and our quality assurance schemes. Quality assurance for grain – which began in Scotland with Scottish Quality Cereals (SQC) in the early 1990s – was key to gaining Chinese approval.”

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