A decision by Japan to reopen its market to Irish beef is a major boost to efforts to access the multi -million euro Chinese markets for thousands of cattle farmers.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the Government will send a team to China next week to pursue the issue and engage in negotiations on lifting the ban on Irish beef products imposed since the outbreak of BSE in 2000.
He was speaking in Tokyo after the announcement that the beef trade will reopen with Japan from today, with the potential of yielding €15m for the Irish economy every year.
Mr Coveney said the “landmark” decision by Japan to lift the ban on Irish beef reflected confidence in the “integrity of Irish food systems and in the quality of Irish beef”.
He said: “Japan is a sophisticated market with sophisticated consumers, who are seeking beef product which Ireland can provide. Japan also sets a benchmark for food safety standards, and for that reason access for Irish beef is very significant from a reputational point of view.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Japan has demonstrated it is happy with the standard of the Irish beef market.
“We are one of the largest exporters of beef in the world and we see great potential in this market,” he said in a joint press conference with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
Accessing the Chinese market would be a major boost to rural Ireland and discussions on the issue have been ongoing for more than a year.
Mr Coveney said a special committee has been set up to advance the issue and will travel to China next week. “Hopefully we will make progress on it but we need to be patient,” he said. “Getting the Japanese market open today will help that effort significantly.”
Mr Kenny said he has discussed the re-opening of the market with the Chinese president Xi Jingping. “Clearly the platform exists for Ireland to conclude a deal in due course with China also,” he said.
The North’s First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, also met Mr Abe in Tokyo, following an invitation issued to them during the G8 summit in Fermanagh in June.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved