China gets a taste of Irish beef again

Three beef factories have been approved by the Chinese authorities and are the first European beef processors to gain access to that country

Creed said the opening of the market will provide "excellent" opportunities for Irish farmers and processors and is a key development amid the uncertainties linked to Brexit.

In total there are 25 plants throughout Ireland that have sought access to the market.

Ireland's agri-food exports to China rose from about €200 million in 2010 to €974 billion previous year.

Bord Bia's Tara McCarthy said it has been actively planning for this access through its Shanghai office and it was testimony to the "reputation" of Irish beef.

It has been three years since China formally lifted a ban on Irish beef exports imposed after the BSE crisis.

By 2020, it is estimated Chinese consumers will eat close to nine million tonnes of beef.

Continuing, Minister Creed explained that the push to gain market access to China was part of his department's Brexit strategy given that over 50% - or in excess of 250,000t - of Irish beef exports go into the United Kingdom market.

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Imports to China have increased from under 100,000 tonnes in 2012 to about 600,000 tonnes in 2016.

Ireland exports almost a €1bn in agri-food products to China each year.

China has seen fourfold increase in demand for meat over the last 30 years, and the country now consumes one quarter of the world's meat supply. While average per capita beef consumption in China is still low at 4kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland, the market for premium imported beef is on the rise.

It is the culmination of years of talks between Ireland and China and the result of a "huge effort by Team Ireland", said the Minister. "I will lead a trade mission to China next month to further build on our trade relationships and continue our dialogue with the Chinese Government".

"I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind", he said.

When asked what the message is now to Irish farmers, he said: "The message is, there are exacting demands in worldwide markets and here is another really, really important market - probably the single biggest in volume terms - which is recognising that we are capable of meeting those exacting and demanding standards". Department officials will complete the final technicalities to allow trade to commence in the coming weeks.

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