State agency Bord Bia said it has a team on the ground watching the re-opening of food stores and suppliers in China to see if it can detect changes to consumer behaviour and for any lessons to be applied around the world, when the Covid-19 restrictions are eventually lifted worldwide.
The concerns are over the future of the €13bn of global food exports for Irish firms and the thousands of jobs and prosperity that they generate across the island under the harsh effects of the effective lock down in key overseas markets.
As it becomes one of the first major markets to lift restrictions, China is an important test bed to monitor if consumers have changed their food preferences after the deadly pandemic.
In a report, Bord Bia said that in the last two weeks, "China’s economic capacity utilisation rate had recovered to 78% of pre-Covid-19 levels" and with almost all food retailers having reopened it had a team on the ground "tracking market movements closely" there.
"While Covid-19 impacts are expected to linger into June, recovery is expected to be well under-way by the second half of 2020," it said.
However, it warned that despite China opening up again that other Asian markets are still waiting for the pandemic to peak.
In Europe, it noted that London’’s wholesale food and vegetable market had opened for public buyers and was selling online too.
The Bord Bia report, called Navigating Change, also said the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has issued guidelines for food producers and retailers struggling with regulations over ingredients and packaging amid the crisis.
It advised firms against "improvising solutions" at this time.
"The introduction of allergens when changing ingredients and-or ingredient suppliers; safe shelf-life if packaging changes and-or the product is formulated differently; and the introduction of new microbiological, physical, chemi- cal hazards with new ingredients," are some of the issues facing food firms, it said.
"In these situations, it is important that food businesses remember their legal obligations to only place safe food on the market," Bord Bia said.