Donegal beef exports to Chinese market approved

Three beef factories have been approved by the Chinese authorities and are the first European beef processors to gain access to that country

Three beef factories have been approved by the Chinese authorities and are the first European beef processors to gain access to that country

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has announced that the Chinese market has been opened to Irish beef, with three factories fully approved by the Chinese authorities and there are hopes that five more, including Kildare Chilling, will follow.

Ireland's agri-food exports to China rose from about €200 million in 2010 to €974 billion previous year.

China banned beef from the European Union and United States during the BSE crisis in 2000 - that ban was officially lifted three years ago but trade still hasn't resumed - until now.

"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", said Minister Creed.

In 2016, China became the world's second-largest beef importer behind the U.S., importing 800,000 metric tons worth $2.6 billion.

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

The US is the top beef importer, with volumes forecast this year by the USDA at 1.38m tonnes, although unlike China, it exports almost as much as it buys in.

For Ireland, the deal is also particularly important given the threat to trade with major trade partner the United Kingdom presented by Brexit.

The Minister concluded: "I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market".

In China, annual per capita beef consumption is low at 4-6kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland.

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Imports to China have increased from under 100,000 tonnes in 2012 to about 600,000 tonnes in 2016.

"In addition to this first tranche of approvals, I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind", he added.

For example, the import of frozen boneless beef, the category for which Ireland will have market access, has grown nine-fold within the last five years.

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

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