Major boost for cross border dairy processors as UK announces Chinese deal

The agreement is said to increase flexibility in the supply chain

LacPatrick is one of the biggest dairy co-ops in the Border region
LacPatrick is one of the biggest dairy co-ops in the Border region

China has approved imports of UK-made dairy products such as cream and yoghurt made using milk sourced from other countries, Liam Fox has announced.

The UK’s International Trade Secretary said the deal is worth almost €280m (£240m) over five years for the UK dairy industry and could provide a huge boost to the Northern Ireland dairy industry.

Announcing the deal, Dr Fox said: “It is very important for Northern Ireland where milk is often sourced from south of the border. We estimate this could be worth a quarter of a billion pounds for the first five years.

“Lakeland Dairies is a very large employer in Northern Ireland and will likely be the main beneficiary of this deal. It is very good news indeed.”

The agreement is said to increase flexibility in the supply chain, meaning producers in Northern Ireland, for example, can export products made using milk from across the border.

Dr Fox announced the deal whilst in China, where he is attending a meeting of the UK-China Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO) in Beijing.

“This is my fourth visit to China this year and I’m delighted to see the completion of this deal, bringing significant benefits to dairy producers across the UK at a time when British food and drink exports are at a record high,” he said.

Cross border dairy trade

It is estimated that over 33,000 milk lorries cross the border every year.

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A recent Eucolait report noted that politically Brexit will be very complex for the dairy sector not least due to the Good Friday agreement and the specific nature of the border separating Northern Ireland from the Republic (future EU external border vs common travel area).

“In this context, we would like to highlight the huge volumes of raw milk crossing the border from the UK to Ireland every day to be processed there: about 800 million litres in 2016, corresponding to some 12pc of Ireland’s milk production pool.

“Moreover, 75pc of the processing facilities in Northern Ireland are fully or jointly owned by Irish cooperatives .

“A reestablishment of a border, let alone duties, would be extremely harmful to both producers in Northern Ireland and dairies in the Republic of Ireland,” it said.

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