Chinese poultry processors have been approved for exports to the EU after 12 years of fighting for access to the market.

The European Commission has said nine companies in Shandong province can now sell heat-treated poultry meat to the EU.

China's first poultry exports reached the EU in 1996 but six months later trade was halted over residue levels. A bird flu outbreak in 2004 further extended the ban on Chinese exports.

The companies now approved for EU exports meet the high food safety standards required by the EU, though high duties will limit their sales, said Raimondo Serra, agricultural counsellor at the EU delegation in Beijing.

Most of the lower tariff market is already allocated to Brazil and Thailand. Duties on exports outside the tariff rate quota (TRQ) are significantly higher.

Yet access to the EU is still valuable. "It is important for China's image to show it can export to the EU, one of the most demanding markets in food safety," Serra told just-food.