Scottish salmon leaps into Chinese markets

Aerial view of a salmon farm in the Shetland Isles The move will boost the fish farming industry in Scotland

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China is to open its kitchens to Scottish salmon, it has emerged.

In an agreement between the Scottish and Chinese governments, exports are to be allowed into the Asian giant's market for the first time.

The move for AQSIQ, a Chinese food safety agency, to approve a range of products is being seen as a big boost to Scotland's fish farming industry.

It already supports 6,000 jobs in Scotland, worth £500m to the economy, with exports worth nearly £300m.

The Chinese demand for salmon and salmon products is already very large, at more than 150% of total Scottish output.

Its demand for Atlantic salmon is expanding fast, up by 42% in 2009 to 8000 tonnes.

For more than two decades, much of that has come from Norway, which last October celebrated the export of its ten millionth salmon to China.

However, relations between the Chinese and Norwegian governments have chilled since the Nobel peace prize was awarded in Oslo to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

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Even if 1% of the people of China decide to take the opportunity to eat Scottish salmon, then we'll have to double production in Scotland”

End Quote First Minister Alex Salmond

Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead said: "This is a very welcome announcement from China that will boost sales of a top quality and sought after Scottish seafood product.

"It will further strengthen an already successful business sector which has positively weathered the economic downturn.

"Last year alone, 234 new jobs were created in the salmon industry and £29.5m of capital was invested in 2009."

'Discerning customers'

First Minister Alex Salmond also welcomed the agreement, following his meeting with China's deputy prime minister, Li Keqiang.

He said: "It's great news. It's something that was confirmed to me by Vice-Premier Li, in our talks on Sunday and that is that the Chinese market is open for Scottish salmon.

"And as the vice-premier was pointing out as he enjoyed our marvellous product, he was pointing out that even if 1% of the people of China decide to take the opportunity to eat Scottish salmon, then we'll have to double production in Scotland."

Phil Thomas, chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers Association said the new market followed investment, helping "to ensure a bright future for a sector that is vital to the Scottish economy".

Jim Gallagher, of Scottish Sea Farms Ltd, added: "China is a major potential market with a significant number of discerning customers who I believe will appreciate the premium quality of our Scottish salmon.

"This new export opportunity is a welcome addition to the global markets in which we operate."

The salmon trade agreement follows announcements earlier in the week.

China agreed that two giant pandas will be leased for ten years to Edinburgh zoo, and PetroChina is to buy a half share in the Grangemouth refinery from current owner Ineos, while China is to gain Scottish technology in petro-chemicals and renewable energy.

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