Chinese market set to open for Irish beef exports

Three years since China formally lifted ban on Irish beef exports imposed after BSE crisis

It has been three years since China formally lifted a ban on Irish beef exports to China imposed after the BSE crisis. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

It has been three years since China formally lifted a ban on Irish beef exports to China imposed after the BSE crisis. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Chinese food authorities are set to approve several Irish meat plants to export beef to China, opening up a potentially huge market within the next few days, according to the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

“I understand that the Chinese authorities will list a number of our beef establishments within the next few days,” said Mr Creed. “The opening of this key market presents an excellent opportunity for the Irish beef sector, from farmers through to processors. Opening and developing new markets is also a key part of our response to the uncertainties arising from Brexit.”

Ireland’s agri-food exports to China rose from about €200 million in 2010 to €974 billion last year. China is Ireland’s third-largest market overall. Dairy exports reached €667 million while pig meat sales were more than € 100 million in 2017.

It has been three years since China formally lifted a ban on Irish beef exports imposed after the BSE crisis. Inspectors from the China state administration of quality supervision, inspection and quarantine have made regular trips to beef plants in Ireland.

In February, ABP signed a €50 million deal to supply beef to the restaurant chain Wowprime in self-ruled Taiwan, as well as the Chinese mainland.

While beef has been a minority taste in China compared to pork, it is growing in popularity and the country is now the world’s second-biggest importer of beef.

Rising demand, combined with the expense of domestically produced meat, means China is looking overseas for its beef.

Imports to China have increased from under 100,000 tonnes in 2012 to about 600,000 tonnes in 2016. Frozen boneless beef accounts for about 80 per cent of these imports.

Average Chinese beef consumption per capita is 4kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland, so there is potential for expansion.

Within the past 30 years the middle class has grown dramatically and Chinese demand for meat has quadrupled, with the country consuming one-quarter of the world’s meat supply.

Trade growth between Ireland and China clocked up a bigger percentage growth than with any other country last year, at 37 per cent.

Mr Creed said he would lead a trade mission to China next month to further build on Ireland’s trade relationships and continue the dialogue with the Chinese government.

“I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete in the Chinese market . . . I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind,” he said.

The department will complete the final technicalities to allow trade to commence in the coming weeks.