China has given the green light to UK cereals companies to start exporting barley to its shores.
The move, which could see up to 150,000 tonnes of UK crop worth £20million sent east, has been described as the beginning of a “brave new world”.
Levy body AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds said all the necessary permissions were now in place to give the UK access to the “massive and growing” mainland China market.
AHDB’s head of crops export trade development, Rob Burns, said: “Our export team worked for years to gain access to the market and now we have opened the doors, it is a market that can be developed.
“Demand for barley in China has been growing fuelled by a large and fast-growing beer market, while domestic production has, at the same time, been in decline.”
He said although harvest was still in full swing, there was likely to be a surplus of barley in the UK which could find a ready home in China provided it comes from assured sources.
The list of assured sources includes Aberdeen Grain, Angus Cereals, Scotgrain, GrainCo, East of Scotland Farmers and Highland Grain.
NFU Scotland’s policy manager, Peter Loggie, said: “This is an important development for Scottish growers and the result of many years of hard work. With spring barley being Scotland’s biggest crop, having another important market opened up for UK barley is very encouraging, and with the Chinese looking to import 7million tonnes of barley, this could provide an added boost to Scottish farmers.
“Scottish growers are appreciative of the effort AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds has put into this although the history of trying to get greater exports of grain, including barley, to China goes back more than 20 years to when Scottish growers Barclay Forrest and George Forbes were Chairmen of British Cereals Exports.”