The government have said, on the eve of a major trade delegation to China, that a £1bn hole in our economy can be plugged by dairy companies exporting their produce to China. Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, is heading a 40 strong group of food businesses who are heading east on a fact fashion mission where, he hopes, they will identify what is needed to make it easier for UK companies to export to China.
He is meeting up with trade associations, industry experts and local companies this week in Shanghai, and is also visiting the branches of Marks & Spencer and Tesco that are in the city. Paterson has said that China was offering some very attractive opportunities to British Dairy companies, as the demand in the country for high quality, safe and good value dairy goods was soaring.
He added that he remembered that only a few years ago there was an antipathy in China towards dairy products, but that has completely changed now. The demand for reliable and high quality dairy foods was escalating at a rapid rate, and that had to be seen as a screamingly good opportunity for the UK. At present, according to Defra, the UK is importing £1.2bn more diary products than it is exporting.
Selling dairy produce to China is often seen as the exportation of commodity products, but Paterson believes that UK companies should be focusing on exporting added value products. He said that in his own area of North Shropshire, he had seen examples during the last 15 years of what can be achieved by dairy companies if they added value to their produce, and this is clearly the route that they should be following.