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Wensleydale Creamery sets sights on Chinese export expansion

With the temporary Chinese ban on British cheese exports now lifted, Wensleydale Creamery has revealed plans to expand its distribution channels in dairy-hungry China.

In a statement, Wensleydale Creamery said that it is currently in talks with a Chinese distributor to increase the availability of its Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese in the country. approached Wensleydale Creamery earlier this month following confirmation from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that a temporary ban on British cheese exports to China, implemented in April 2014, had been lifted.

With the flow of British cheese to China now reestablished, Wensleydale Creamery is able to refocus on expanding the reach of its products in China.

“We sell some cheese to China now via third party, and we are in discussions with a large new distributor in China about increasing distribution in the country,” Sandra Bell, marketing manager, Wensleydale Creamery, told

"Approved to export"

In line with new Chinese food safety legislation, which came into force on May 1 2014, officials from the country conducted an audit of dairy plants up and down the UK.

Under the revised regulations, only dairy products manufactured at facilities approved by the Chinese Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) are permitted to enter the country.

During this audit, both Wensleydale Creamery manufacturing sites "were approved with flying colours," said Bell.

Alongside the likes of First Milk and Adams Food, Wensleydale Creamery is one of just 14 British cheese manufacturers to have so far been granted permission to export their products to China. Its addition to the list makes it the only exporter of Yorkshire Wensleydale to China.

Chinese decided, however, to slap a temporary ban on British cheese exports in April 2014 after “issues related to maintenance, air sanitation, raw milk transport temperatures and chemical storage” after were identified at a single facility.

Despite the issues identified relating to just one plant, British cheese makers were informed that the ban would remain in place until all plants exporting to China had been audited a second time - this time by local authorities.

With this second round of inspections completed, cheese makers had been given the go ahead to restart shipments to China.

“All UK cheese exports are back in to China and both our sites are approved to export to China,” Bell reiterated.

"Great platform"

Wensleydale Creamery, which is also known as Wensleydale Cheese Products, said earlier this year that exports now accounts for 14% of its business.

The majority of this figure is shipped to the USA.

In December 2013, Yorkshire Wensleydale, a favourite of British animated cheese aficionados Wallace and Gromit, was awarded European Union (EU) Protection Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

The PGI ensures that no cheese maker outside the Wensleydale area - comprised of Hawes, Seburgh, Bedale, Wharfdale, Midderdale, Ribblesdale, Ripon, and Swaledale - can produce a cheese and call it Yorkshire Wensleydale.

Wensleydale Creamery is the only firm producing Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese in the area.

Commenting at the time, David Hartley, managing director, Wensleydale Creamery, branded the EU recognition as "a great platform to propel us into 2014."

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