Thoroughbred racehorses join pig semen on the list of British-Chinese trade deals


It’s not cars, trains, or even planes which are set to boost Britain’s fortunes abroad. There’s no manufacturing involved, and forget any notions of ‘Made in the UK’ factory-produced goods.

Instead, the salvation of Britain’s struggling economy could be on four feet, rather than four wheels. For thoroughbred racehorses are leading the charge for the millions to be made from exports to China.

A new bilateral agreement between Britain and China, announced this week will open the door to the export of some of Newmarket’s finest – seeing some of the best British racehorses ending up in the hands of investors in China. While the export of horses to far flung destinations is not new, with the market for thoroughbreds from Britain worth £118 million each year, this marks the first attempt to get a foothold in China.

The announcement was made during a visit to Newmarket racecourses, in Suffolk, by Zhi Shuping, China's minister for import controls. "Riding, breeding and training horses is increasingly popular in China, so this deal will ensure we can make the most of Britain's world-famous thoroughbreds in boosting our burgeoning equine industry," he said.

The Chinese government delegation saw one of Britain’s most valuable equines, Frankel. The retired racehorse, trained by Sir Henry Cecil, and owned by Prince Khalid Abdulla, ended an unbeaten career by winning the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October 2012. He is now in stud, where a single one of his foals costs around £125,000.

The trip to the home of British racing was arranged after a visit to China by environment secretary Owen Paterson last year, as part of a trade delegation led by Prime Minister David Cameron.

"This deal will boost the UK economy by up to £10 million, and once again demonstrates the value of our global reputation for high-quality exports," said Mr Paterson. "Through working in partnership with industry on export deals, we can secure great results for the British economy," he added.

But the true value could be far greater, with Britain’s reputation for breeding world-class thoroughbreds likely to prove attractive to rich Chinese horse enthusiasts.

Carter Carnegie, international executive, Great British Racing International, which promotes investment in the sport, commented: “It is no secret that China is an emerging market for thoroughbred racing, and could form a valuable export market for British racing in the future.”

And the new agreement will help other horse-related businesses looking to expand in the Far East, according to Claire Williams, executive director, British Equestrian Trade Association. “It will give a real boost to those companies developing markets in China for other related equestrian products,” she said.

The racehorse export agreement means that horses have joined pigs in adding to the country’s coffers. For one of the deals struck during the trade visit to China led by the Prime Minister in December will see Britain export pig semen in an agreement worth £45 million a year.

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