June 27 (UPI) -- China agreed Wednesday to end it's 20-year ban on beef imports from England, stemming from the BSE or "mad cow disease" outbreak in the 1990s.
The decision to lift the ban was the result of years of site inspections and negotiations between British and Chinese officials.
Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May made a trade mission to China, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted at lifting the ban.
"This is fantastic news for our world-class food and farming industry and shows we can be a truly outward-looking Britain outside the European Union," said environment secretary Michael Gove. "It is the result of painstaking and collaborative work by industry and the Defra team over many years. Today's milestone will help to unlock U.K. agriculture's full potential and is a major step to forging new trading relationships around the globe."
The deal allows the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to begin market access negotiations, a process which usually takes about three years.
Britain currently exports about $734 million of food and drink from the farming sector a year to China, according to the BBC. The deal is expected to be worth about $328 million for British beef producers in the first five years.
A spokesman for the British Meat Processing Association praised the deal Wednesday.
"This is an important milestone in growing our meat exports to this all-important market," he said. "We look forward to seeing the export protocols and approvals being settled as quickly as possible so that commercial shipments can start."