Chinese demand for British produce ‘growing’, food and drink firms told
- Credit: Archant
East Anglia’s food and drink brands are making greater inroads into the Chinese market as demand for quality produce grows, producers heard this month.
Speaking at a lunch for food and drink firm bosses hosted by the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) eastern headquarters in Newmarket, Chris Cotton, director of the China-Britain Business Council, said there was “huge potential” to advance a ‘golden era’ in China-UK relations.
The focus for trade was on the fast-growing wealthier echelons of Chinese society, with an estimated 109m people now classified as belonging to the middle class in China, compared to 92m in the United States. Household income is forecast to increase from £1trillion in 2012 to £2.7trillion in 2022, he added.
“With such a large population and a rapidly growing middle class, China has already become the world’s largest grocery market,” he said. “The market is forecast to grow at a rate of 5.9% a year and, by 2020, total grocery sales are estimated to reach 1.5 trillion US dollars.”
Key import trends included growing demand for alcoholic drinks, quality craft foods such as European biscuits and chocolate, European dairy products, and natural or organic produce. There was also a growth in demand for race horses - according to the state-run China Equestrian Sports Association, China has, on average, imported more than 2,000 racehorses each year since 2008, he said.
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The event was hosted by NFU regional driector Robert Sheasby and supported by food entrepreneur William Kendall, the High Sheriff of Suffolk.
Annie Eaves, director of Linkseast, said live Cromer crabs were among the exports to China, and UK pig meat was proving very popular, with exports rising from 54,000 tonnes in 2015 to 80,000 tonnes last year.
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“China is a priority market for the UK and over the next five years the UK is targeting an extra £405m worth of exports,” said Mr Cotton.