It will be worth an estimated £230m over the first five years of market access alone

British beef could soon be back on Chinese menus, more than two decades after a ban was imposed at the height of the BSE crisis.

The UK-China Beef Protocol, signed by farming minister Robert Goodwill and Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming this week, means the Chinese market is open to UK beef imports for the first time since 1996.

It will be worth an estimated £230m over the first five years of market access alone, said Goodwill, who described the deal as a “major coup for our world-class food and farming industry”. British beef is expected to go on sale across China before the end of the year.

The protocol marks the culmination of several years of site inspections and engagement between UK and Chinese government officials, and comes as demand for beef in China is surging as the country struggles to replace the protein gap left by its African swine fever crisis.

Wholesale prices for beef in China increased by 9% from August 2018 to the end of February this year, according to IQC Insights.

British meat processors were set to benefit “massively” from the opportunities the new agreement presented, said AHDB international market director Phil Hadley.

“It comes after many years spent working tirelessly to reopen access for our beef exports and it’s a real testament to the work of government and other industry bodies to make this happen,” he said.

Welsh minister for environment, energy and rural affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said the deal was “particularly timely as we prepare to leave the European Union, when we must take every opportunity to open new overseas markets”.

It follows news last week that the US and China are being targeted in a “major new government strategy” to boost food and drink exports post-Brexit.