Ireland has taken a major step to becoming the first EU country to gain access to China’s beef market, with China is expected to start inspections of meat export facilities in Ireland in December.
If the inspections are successful, Ireland could begin exporting beef to China in 2015.
China has banned beef imports from EU countries ever since the outbreak of the mad cow disease in the late 1980s. The United States and UK are also seeking permission to sell beef in China.
China announced its plans to conduct inspections in Ireland following Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney’s meetings in Beijing with Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu and with Zhi Shuping, the Chinese minister responsible for market access.
“I am delighted to have secured agreement from my Chinese counterpart to send a formal inspection team to Ireland in December,” said Mr Coveney.
“The question of beef access has also been raised at the highest political levels, and I am delighted that we were in a position to advance this process during my visit to China.”
Demand for red meat in China, the world’s second-largest economy, has risen strongly in recent years due to rising incomes and a richer diet.
Mr Coveney said: “Demand for beef in China is expected to rise by 1m tonnes over the next five years, and I am determined that Irish farmers and processors should have access to this critically important market.”
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