Farmers have welcomed a beef deal with China which will open up a multimillion-euro market to Irish producers.
The landmark deal will see a number of beef plants approved and listed by the Chinese in the coming days and this list is expected to be extended.
Donegal Meat Processors (Foyle Meats), Slaney Foods International (ABP), and ABP Clones are the first plants to be selected to export to China.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said the agreement is a “powerful endorsement” of Ireland’s high standards.
“I understand that the Chinese authorities will list a number of our beef establishments within the next few days. The opening of this key market presents an excellent opportunity for the Irish beef sector, from farmers through to processors, in line with the market development theme of our Food Wise strategy. Opening and developing new markets is also a key part of our response to the uncertainties arising from Brexit,” said Mr Creed.
The Irish Farmers’ Association welcomed the announcement but said it is important that the terms and conditions attached to access for Irish beef are not overly stringent.
IFA president Joe Healy said: “This is positive news for the Irish beef sector and, as the minister has said, the key issue for Irish farmers is that it will deliver a higher margin and price back to them.”
China is now our third largest market for agri-food trade, with exports reaching €974m last year.
Dairy exports reached €667m and pigmeat exports were over €100m in 2017.
In the last 30 years Chinese demand for meat has quadrupled, and the country now consumes one-quarter of the world’s meat supply.
The appetite for beef has increased significantly in China and consumer demand for premium imported beef is forecast to rise significantly, driven by increasing urbanisation, higher disposable incomes and health awareness.
The import of frozen boneless beef, the category for which Ireland will have market access, has grown nine-fold within the last five years. Overall beef imports to China have increased from under 100,000 tonnes in 2012 to around 600,000 tonnes in 2016. Frozen boneless beef accounts for around 80% of these imports.
Mr Creed said the door for trade has been opened thanks to a huge effort by officials in his own department and the Irish Embassy in Beijing, along with Bord Bia, other government departments and agencies, the food industry and farmers.
He said: “Our agri-food exports to China have increased roughly five-fold from around €200m in 2010 to nearly €1bn last year.
“This has been a remarkable achievement and underlines the importance of the Chinese market. For beef, the door has now been opened and there is a real opportunity for the industry to build on this.”
The minister is due to lead a trade mission to China next month to further build the trade relationships.
“I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market and I look forward to the opportunities that this access will bring. In addition to this first tranche of approvals, I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind,” Mr Creed added.
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