Chinese beef market opens to exports from Ireland

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Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Kenny TD has welcomed the news today that the Chinese market has been opened to Irish beef from three factories, with five more to follow.

They banned beef from the European Union and USA during the BSE crisis in 2000, and while that ban was officially lifted three years ago, trade still hasn't resumed.

The minister continued: "Our agri-food exports to China have increased roughly five-fold from around €200m in 2010 to almost €1bn previous year".

There will be the first European beef processors to gain access to China.

"Primarily it's a triumph for our beef farmers because they're producing quality", Minister Creed told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Minister Creed said 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.

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While average per capita beef consumption in China is still low at 4kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland, the market for premium imported beef is on the rise.

This opens up a market of nearly 1.5 billion people, of which even a fraction could help offset uncertainties arising from Brexit.

"The opening of Irish beef access is testimony to our industry's strength, reputation and proven track record in the Chinese market", she said.

The minister said: "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". Marketplace 2018 will be the largest worldwide food buyer event ever staged in Ireland, with in-excess of 600 food and drink trade buyers from 52 countries travelling to meet, and do business, with the Irish food and drink industry. "I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind", he said.

Mr Creed will lead a trade mission to China next month to consolidate Ireland's trading relationship with the Chinese government.

The Department of Agriculture says it will complete "final technicalities" shortly, allowing beef trade to get under way in the coming weeks.