WASHINGTON, June 15, 2017 – The U.S. and China have come to an agreement that the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) says will pave the way for substantially increasing U.S. dairy exports.

As previously reported by Agri-Pulse, a memorandum of understanding will give immediate clearance for 80 U.S. processors to begin shipping milk to China. But it also opens the path for more than 200 U.S. dairy exporters to get the certification they need to start shipping to China.

After about two years of working with the FDA, USDA and China’s Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA), both countries have agreed to a system that will allow third-party certification companies to audit U.S. dairy facilities to make sure they comply with Chinese food-safety requirements, USDEC said today.

About three years ago, China announced broad new food- safety regulations that required all foreign milk suppliers to be registered and certified by their domestic regulatory agencies before they could ship to China. It proved to be complex hurdle for the FDA, and new applications by U.S. dairy exporters have been stymied as U.S. officials worked out how to comply.

“There was never a question of U.S. product safety,” USDEC said in a statement. “It was more a question of compliance with regulations between two countries with rigid regulatory systems.”

Now that a solution has been worked out, the U.S. dairy sector is ready to capitalize on the new sales opportunities.

“This deal marks a significant opportunity for the U.S. dairy industry,” said USDEC CEO Tom Vilsack. “China is already the world’s largest dairy importer, even though per capita consumption remains far below that of the United States, Europe and even its Asian neighbors like Japan and South Korea. The potential to increase exports there is tremendous.”

China is already the third-largest foreign export market for U.S. dairy products, behind Mexico and Canada, according to USDEC. The U.S. exported $384 million worth of dairy products to China last year.