March 26 (Reuters) - China’s love for all things pork could soon make the country the top importer of British pork, dethroning Germany, just four years after it opened its doors to pork imports from the UK.
Chinese demand for pork offal - or internal organs - is also good news for UK pork producers as there’s little demand for these products at home.
Though China is home to half the world’s pigs, it still imported 564,000 tonnes of pork - equivalent to about two-thirds of Britain’s production - and 814,000 tonnes of offal last year.
“Chinese like two things,” said Mick Sloyan, director of England’s pork levy board, BPEX. “One is they quite like strong taste when it comes to meat .. and they love stuff with bones in so they can chew on.”
Pork exports from the UK to China have more than doubled to 65,000 tonnes between 2012 and 2014, while exports to Germany - the number one destination for British pork for the last three years - has fallen about 5 percent.
Privately owned Karro Food Group Ltd, one of the three UK pork producers with a permit to supply to China, plans to raise exports by 80 percent this year.
Cranswick Plc and Tulip Ltd are also boosting shipments to the world’s No. 1 pork consumer.
“(China is) where the majority of our (export) growth comes from,” said Adam Couch, Cranswick’s chief executive.
China’s demand for parts of the pig that Britons refuse to eat is helping British companies earn better margins on meat and parts that were previously thrown away or used in low-margin products such as pet food.
“... It can be very broad, ranging from the head to feet to even shoulders. They do make great utilisation of the carcass than you would find in a lot of other countries,” Couch said.
China has already overtaken the Netherlands as the biggest market for UK offal, with imports nearly tripling since 2012.
Cranswick is also trying to make inroads into the ready-to-eat market in China, where a growing middle class is demanding better quality food.
BPEX’S Sloyan said he expected meat processor Dunbia and Karro’s Cookstown plant in Northern Ireland to win export approval from China in the second half of 2015.
Britain ranked sixth among pork exporters to China in 2014, shipping about 27,500 tonnes, or 5 percent of total imports. (Editing by Maju Samuel)