Paterson heads to China to spearhead dairy export drive

DEFRA Secretary Owen Paterson is heading to China this week to spearhead a drive to boost UK dairy exports to the world’s most populace nation.

Mr Paterson has frequently spoken of his desire to address the UK’s ‘dessert deficit’ since he took up his post in September.

He said the UK currently imports £1.2 billion more dairy produce than it exports, meaning there is huge potential for growth at home and abroad.

He used his Party Conference speech last month to urge consumers to buy British dairy products to help close the deficit. “Each year we import 115,000 tonnes of ice cream – more than double the 50,000 we send abroad and 150,000 tonnes of yoghurt – six times the 25,000 we export,” he said.

His trip to China represents the other side of the equation. Mr Paterson will this week meet dairy companies, trade associations, industry experts and retailers in Shanghai to begin developing trade with the world’s biggest grocery market.

China is consuming significantly more Western-style milk, cheese, and yogurt because of changing lifestyles and diet, and Britain can help supply that demand, he said.

Mr Paterson said there was a ‘window of opportunity’ for the UK dairy industry to ‘significantly expand production’ while other EU countries are restricted by milk quotas until 2015. The UK currently ‘has as room to expand’ within the quota system, he said.  

Defra has announced it will hold a dairy export summit in the New Year to share the insight gained into the Chinese market with other interested businesses.

Mr Paterson will also be promoting tea, desserts, beer, meat, and confectionery produced by British companies in China this week. A record number of small- and medium-sized British businesses will be in Shanghai to sell their produce to 30,000 importers at the giant Food and Hotel China exhibition.

Mr Paterson said: “From chocolate to cheddar, China’s population is getting a taste for dairy, and Britain’s world-class food industry can supply that demand.

“I’ll be helping British businesses grab the opportunity with both hands, so our country competes and thrives in the global race.”

Readers' comments (5)

  • I'm maybe missing something but when we have such a deficit, why are we trying to export dairy products when surely it makes sense to simply concentrate on producing products that satisfy the home market against contracts that encourage long term investment. Fits a little uneasily with unnecessary food miles.

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  • @ Paul Temple | 12 November 2012 6:53 pm
    You may be missing something but Patterson isn't. A free jolly to China on the flimsiest of excuses - Wonderful!

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  • Ban imports to the UK

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  • Currently in Beijing-China on my Nuffield and meeting the SoS tomorrow in Shanghai, huge opportunities here, but only if we are producing the products that China want to buy. No UK company can compete with the Coops of the Eu or NZ , sounds easy but very little cheese consumed here! Although we are going to try to persuade them to eat some more! The high margins are in Infant milk from anywhere other than China, real loss of trust in their home products.

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  • Paul
    Surely it is important to develop new routes to market, tighten the home market further and increase milk prices leading to a more sustainable dairy industry

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