The UK cereals industry is one step closer to gaining access to one of the world’s largest barley markets, following an inspection visit organised by AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds.
In the last fortnight, its team has hosted four Chinese government inspectors on a tour of the UK cereals supply chain, as part of a five-year project to remove trade barriers to the country’s 6Mt barley import requirement.
The visit could mean the UK will be able to export barley to China in future seasons. Currently, UK barley cannot be exported to China as a ‘protocol’ is not in place. Only Denmark, France, Argentina, Australia, Canada and Ukraine currently have such an agreement in place.
AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds exports manager, Sarah Mann, said: “This is a significant achievement representing five years of work and a huge collaborative effort from across the sector.
“We’re not quite at the finish line but this is an important step in the process, showing that China and the UK have reached an understanding about how to proceed on what could be a lucrative opportunity for grain exporters.”
A key part of the process was demonstrating to inspectors that the UK barley supply chain is governed by a competent authority and export cargoes would be free from pests, diseases and weeds.
Ms Mann added: “They were pleased with what they saw; they commented that our systems are well managed and recognised that the assurance schemes played an important role in ensuring the quality and safety of grains in the UK.”
The tour included visits to farms, stores and the official testing laboratories for England and Scotland.
Chairman of the AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds exports committee, and of the NFU crops board, Mike Hambly, said: “This has been a challenging process as industry self-regulation is not well-understood by the Chinese.
“It is a testament to the professionalism, robustness and integrity of the assurance schemes and their members that the inspectors seemed satisfied at the end of their visit. These are exciting times for barley growers and traders.”
The inspectors will now submit a written report which will determine the terms of the protocol. The protocol could be in place within months or may take much longer, depending on the complexity of negotiations.
Chinese import requirements are rapidly increasing – in 2012 China imported less than 2Mt barley; in 2015 it is forecast to be 6Mt.