British meat companies are targeting Hong Kong distributors in a bid to develop the trading route.

In an initiative run by Food from Britain, buyers from Hong Kong travelled to the UK this week to meet farmers, processors and wholesale companies.

The visits had given the Hong Kong buyers "a better understanding of the UK market to enable them to meet UK meat suppliers in person to talk about prices and form bonds," said Kelly-Jane Haley, international marketing executive at FFB.

Premium West Country sausage manufacturer Westaways agreed to supply Hong Kong after meeting buyers from Sutherland Company, Saison Foods and Hoover Food Supplier.

It is hoped trade with Hong Kong will help the industry recover from the impact of last summer's foot and mouth outbreak. Meat exports were halted at a cost of £10m a week to the meat industry, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.

Figures from 2006 show meat exports to Hong Kong were worth just £8.4m. The majority of this was 'fifth-quarter' products from pigs, mainly offal that didn't have a market in Europe.

The MLC, which is working with FFB, wants to

develop a market for British beef in Hong Kong and

re-establish the market for pork.

"Fifth-quarter products are highly valued, but there is no established beef market," said Peter Hardwick, MLC international manager.

A wealthy population of seven million and a strong tourist industry meant there was potential for a lucrative trade exporting prime beef and lamb, he added.