A ‘diplomatic offensive’ to secure new markets and increased trade for European agri food products is to be launched in the New Year by Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan.
He revealed at the annual convention of Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) in Dublin that he will start the initiative with a trade mission to Mexico and Colombia in February.
He said the removal of obstacles to trade as well as the identification of untapped potential in important agricultural sectors will be at the centre of the visit.
“In addition to political exchanges, an important aspect of my visit will be facilitating exchange and agreements between European and Mexican and Colombian businesses active in the agri-food sector,” he said.
Commissioner Hogan said trade is the lifeblood of the co-op movement’s success. There are clear reasons for optimism, when it comes to the trade and market prospects of European farmers.
“The context is favourable. Global demand continues to grow, and the EU is now the world’s biggest trader of agri-food products with exports totalling €122bn and imports of €104bn.
“We have had an increasingly positive trade balance since 2010, and last year we maintained our good export performance even despite the Russian ban.
“I believe global markets will be hungry for our high-quality, safe products. It is estimated 150 million people will enter the global middle class every year until 2030.
“This massive growth in disposable income will result in significant changes to dietary patterns, as families demand better quality and more nutritious food on their tables,” he said.
Stressing that Irish and European farmers are well-placed to meet that demand, he said “our meat products are among the very best in the world.” “My services and I have taken note of the recent WHO report, and we do not believe it will have any meaningful impact on sales of our high-quality, traceable meat products,” he said.
Mr Hogan said opening up new markets will be a key priority in the coming years. “We are optimistic about finding new markets for our products – perhaps within the EU, but also elsewhere in the world, such as the Far East,” he said.
He pointed to this year’s announcement of an equivalency agreement with South Kore. Talks are also ongoing with Japan and Vietnam, which could lead to significant opportunity.
“Now that the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement between Asia and the United States is over the line, I believe there’s a real opportunity for a Free Trade Agreement with Japan. This would generate huge prospects for the beef and grain sectors,” he said.
Commissioner Hogan said his commitment is to help operators find new markets.
“That is why I has scheduled a number of visits to third countries for 2016, where important opportunities exist to open doors for new exports,” he said.
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