Chinese set to fast-track approval for more Irish beef plants

Minister Michael Creed TD
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Five sheep plants and close to 10 beef factories are expected to be inspected by Chinese officials who are due to visit Ireland during the last week of August.

The factory audits are viewed as the last step in efforts to significantly grow Irish beef sales in the massive Chinese market.

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They are also seen as a crucial process to securing access to China for Irish sheep-meat exports. Irish sheep-meat is not currently being exported to China.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, announced a fast-tracking of the Chinese inspection and approval process for Irish sheep and beef factories during a visit to the Far East last May.

While the itinerary of the Chinese delegation has not been released it is understood that a number of factories that process both sheep and beef have been included.

Laboratories

The Chinese inspectors are also expected to visit rendering facilities and Department of Agriculture laboratories.

Securing access for Irish beef exports to China took close to six years and just seven slaughter plants have been approved to date for the export of frozen beef.

An additional 12 factories applied for export approval last year and it is expected that these will be subject to audits in the upcoming site visits.

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It is anticipated within the industry that approval for these additional beef plants will follow quickly on from the inspections where plants are successful.

The fast-tracking of the Chinese inspection procedures for the Irish meat plants comes as the country struggles with an unprecedented outbreak of African Swine Flu (ASF) in its pig herd.

China has been forced to cull 7m breeding sows as a result of the ASF outbreak. This represents almost a quarter of its breeding herd - the world's largest.

The cull means that China's pork production this year is expected to fall by 25-30pc from the 54m tonnes produced in 2018. This represents a drop of around 16m tonnes.

The shortfall in Chinese domestic production will be offset by imports of pork and other meat such as beef, sheep-meat and poultry.

Declan Fennell of Bord Bia said that gaining access to the Chinese sheep meat market was a key priority for Ireland.

However, he pointed out that securing such approval was in the gift of the Chinese authorities and they would make the final decision.

In addition to inspecting sheep meat plants, it is anticipated that the Chinese authorities will conduct a full systems audit of the sheep processing sector.

And access to Asian markets for sheep-meat exports is the next target for the sector

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