The door has been opened for the export of British horses to China, kick-starting a trade estimated to initially be worth £10 million a year to the UK economy.
Britain and China have agreed terms for an export certificate that will allow the trade, expected to involve mostly British thoroughbred and jumping horses.
British Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss described it as a crucial agreement with Chinese authorities that would help to grow Britain’s £7 billion equine industry.
The new Export Health Certificate will allow for the export of horses to China with immediate effect.
Britain’s equine industry includes racing, eventing and breeding. It provides employment for up to 270,000 people and supports thousands of small businesses across the UK.
It was hoped the deal would also promote Britain’s saddlery and veterinary services overseas.
“I’m delighted that days after Great Britain finished top of the medal table at the World Equestrian Games, we’re able to announce a deal that could bring up to £10 million of new trade to our shores,” Truss said.
“We’ve long been a world leader in racing, eventing and breeding – it’s only right that our historic yet innovative equine industry is able to export its top-quality horses and expertise across the globe.”
She said the deal was the latest in Britain’s push to boost British exports.
Professor Tim Morris, the equine representative for the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, said Britain led the world with its range of quality horses and ponies.
“We have a unique combination of the best thoroughbred and sport horses, and a wide diversity of unique breeds from Shetland ponies to Shire horses, and the equine industry, particularly the breeding sector, welcomes this access to the developing Chinese market.”
The export deal will add to existing UK arrangements which saw 4907 equines exported to 36 countries outside the European Union in 2013 – worth an estimated £108 million to the economy. British exports of horses increased by 12 percent between 2010 and 2013, from £244 million to £274 million.
It expected the first British horses will be exported to China by the end of this year.