Ireland has become the first European beef exporter to secure access to the Chinese market, with the country’s appetite for beef ‘growing steadily’.
Opening new markets was a key part of the Irish response to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, with questions over the future of Irish beef exports to the UK.
Three Irish factories have been fully approved for export by the Chinese authorities for frozen, boneless beef, at ABP Clones, Slaney Meats and Donegal Meat Processors.
Five other plants have also applied for approval, with the Government hopeful these agreements ‘will not be too far behind’.
It comes as the UK looks to get British beef back on the menu in China this year.
While annual per capita beef consumption was low, at 4-6kg compared to 19kg in Ireland, consumption was on the rise.
By 2020, Chinese consumers were expected to double the amount of beef they ate to 9 million tonnes.
Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, said it was an excellent opportunity for the sector ‘from farmers through to processors’.
Mr Creed said: “Opening and developing new markets is also a key part of our response to the uncertainties arising from Brexit.
“This decision also represents a powerful endorsement of Ireland’s high standards by the Chinese Administration, for which food safety is a prerequisite for trade.”
Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said it had been actively planning and was ‘well-positioned and ready to maximise this significant opportunity for Irish beef exporters.
She said: “Ireland’s agri-food industry already enjoys a strong trade relationship with China. Exports were valued at almost €1 billion last year, while China is our second largest export market for dairy and pork, behind the UK.”
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) welcomed the announcement, but warned access must deliver for farmers.
President Joe Healey said to build a substantial market share, it was vital to secure eligibility for all Irish beef products and beef plants and the market opportunity was ‘not restrictive for farmers’.
Mr Healy added the major challenges for Mr Creed on beef remained tackling ‘unacceptably low income levels’ on Irish farms and the market challenges arising from Brexit.