Tulip is investing £15m in its UK operations as part of a major export drive to increase its pork sales to China and Hong Kong by 25% this year.
The money will be spent on upgrading and expanding its Westerleigh site in Gloucestershire, including new equipment to “enhance product finish” and new fridges. The upgrade is expected to be completed in the summer. Tulip hopes it will allow it to increase pigmeat exports to China to 15,000 tonnes in 2014, from 12,000 in 2013.
The UK arm of Danish Crown started exporting pork products to China in 2012 following a trade deal between the UK and China, and has already invested £22m in its Aston and Spalding facilities to help build its export business.
China offered potential for “enormous future growth”, said Tulip CEO Chris Thomas. “We have and are continuing to invest in our UK processing operation to meet the demands of our ambitious growth plans for our export business. We believe this will allow additional facilities to gain approval from China during 2014.”
At the end of last year, Defra secretary of state Owen Paterson secured a trade deal with China for £45m worth of pig semen a year, and announced he was also working on a deal for pigs trotters. Tulip said it was now close to adding pig trotters to its export portfolio; it currently exports a range of 16 products, including pork tongues, heads and tailbones. In total, Tulip exported 41,000 tonnes of pigmeat to destinations around the world in 2013.
Tulip’s push comes as its rivals also seek to grow sales to the Far East. Last year, Karro Food Group outlined plans to double its £60m-£70m annual exports in two years. Cranswick is also eyeing export growth and last year brokered a £7m deal to export pork to Australia.