All UK factories exporting cheese to China are to be visited by food inspectors in a bid to remove the Chinese ban on the import of British cheese.
China accounts for 11.5 tonnes of UK cheese exports per year – less than 1% of total non-EU exports. However, the Chinese cheese market is growing exponentially and British dairy farmers fear missing out on the boom.
Chinese authorities have banned the imports of British cheese after carrying out an inspection of a single dairy. The ban only affects cheese produced after 1 May.
The dairy in question is not thought to export cheese to China, but officials were upset with the levels of maintenance and storage facilities, as well as transportation temperatures and air sanitisation.
The visit was part of a European audit by Chinese dairy officials. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) accompanied the officials on the visit but have warned against alarm.
The UK Food Standards Agency is now to complete compliance checks on all its export facilities. Should the inspection return positive results, the ban is likely to be lifted.
A written statement DairyCo, which represents UK dairy farmers, said: "The ban will remain in place until all UK cheese plants exporting to China are audited by the local authorities. However, it does not apply to any products made before the new law comes into force."