Chinese premier signs bilateral deals on farming and visas
Security is tight as Li Keqiang visits dairy farm and attends Irish music performance
The Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, and his wife, Madam Cheng, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Garvey’s farm Gortbrack, Co Mayo. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Li said he viewed Ireland as a gateway to Europe and the western economy, and said he was happy to have improved links between the two countries.
AgreementsMr CoveneyMr Han ChangfuCharlie FlanaganMr Wang Yi
It is anticipated that the visit could help to expedite resumption of Irish beef exports to China, at a time when it has become Ireland’s second most important market after the EU for agri-food exports.
Ireland is the first European country to have gained access to China since the 15-year-old BSE-related ban on importing European beef was lifted in February.
Mr Li and his wife, Prof Cheng Hong, were accompanied by a number of cabinet ministers when they landed at Shannon airport yesterday en route to Brazil. President Michael D Higgins had invited the Chinese premier to Ireland during his State visit to China last year.
The highly choreographed visit amid tight security began with a trip to a 109-hectare farm in Co Mayo.
The farm, run by three generations of the Garvey family, is predominantly dairy, with a large herd of Holstein/Friesian cattle.
In torrential rain, the Chinese premier and his wife and delegation were afforded a quick viewing of the dairy herd and suckler calves, along with the family’s ducks, before attending a performance of Irish music by the Trad on the Prom group from Galway.
Mr Li and his wife were then invited into the Garvey’s kitchen for tea, along with Mr Kenny and his wife, Fionnuala O’Kelly, and Mr Coveney, where they discussed Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability system.
The Garvey farm is a member of Bord Bia’s Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme.
As part of its Origin Green programme, Bord Bia is currently carbon footprinting approximately 700 farms per week.
Bord Bia hosted a presentation of “artistan food” in conjunction with Cafe Rua of Castlebar, Co Mayo, in a marquee erected on the Garvey farm.
Among those involved in the discussions on the economy, agriculture and education were Mr Coveney, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Jobs and Enterprise, Mr Richard Bruton, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan and Minister for Environment Alan Kelly.
Access by the press was limited to photographers however, amid some concerns within the Government delegation about the “sensitivity” of the trade dimension to the visit.The Chinese delegation leave today to continue their trip to Brazil.