Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney opened the largest-ever Irish pavilion at the China Seafood & Fisheries Expo and hailed the prospects for Irish exporters in the € 20-billion Chinese market.
“Ireland has some of the finest seafood in the world, with a superior offering that is sustainably harvested from the pure, clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean,” said Mr Coveney, who is leading a delegation of 37 companies to China.
China is growing quickly in importance as a market for Irish farmers and food companies.
In the first six months of this year, Ireland exported over € 405 million in dairy, meats, beverages, seafood, and hides and skins to China compared, up from € 300 million in the same period of 2013.
Irish seafood exports have risen by more than 300 per cent since 2011 to reach € 18 million in 2013, and sales are up 56 per cent in the first six months of this year.
“Business development and trade show events such as these are invaluable in building awareness of our high quality produce to an influential, targeted trade audience,” he said.
The expo was taking place in the port city of Qingdao in the east of China. A record eleven Irish seafood companies are taking part in the trade show, which is expected to attract 25,000 visitors expected from over 100 countries.
Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia said Ireland's leading shellfish processors had been successful in penetrating the China market.
“Bord Bia has ambitious plans to further grow the share of Irish seafood into China and has a number of programmes in place to assist Irish seafood processors in identifying, profiling and targeting new customers that are willing to pay a premium for quality seafood from Ireland,” said Mr Cotter.
Traditionally, Irish exporters have focused on the sale of pelagic species to China, but in the last three years, there have been efforts to identify and develop opportunities for premium shellfish, notably for shellfish such as live and processed brown crab, langoustines, scallops and razor fish.
Earlier in the mission, Mr Coveney signed a co-operation pact between Bord Bia and the China Dairy Industry Association during a trade mission to the country.
“Ireland stands on the cusp of the biggest positive development for Irish agriculture in over thirty years”.
In April this year, Ireland achieved a 100 per cent compliance with Chinese requirements during an audit of Irish dairy plants.
“Our target to grow dairy output by 50 per cent in just five years means that we can play a leading role in meeting China’s growing demand,” Mr Coveney.
The minister also signed an agreement with his Chinese counterparts for a pilot electronic certification system for the dairy sector.