Beef expansion hindered by ongoing spectre of BSE
The legacy of BSE remains a serious challenge to developing third country markets for Irish beef.
While Ireland has virtually eradicated the disease it continues to be a major concern for many non-EU countries.
These views were expressed by Department of Agriculture official Brendan Gleeson at the Bord Bia's Meat Markets Prospects seminar that was held in Dublin.
Mr Gleeson said the overall trend in the incidence of BSE was downward and that the age profile of the cases identified was upward.
But BSE continued to be a "legacy issue" which had to be dealt with when working on access to markets, he said.
Mr Gleeson told the seminar, which was attended by all the major meat processors as well as representatives from the farm organisations, that Ireland was cleared for beef exports to 38 non-EU countries, 28 for sheep and 13 for pig meat.
Growing third country markets would be essential if Ireland was to meet the Food Harvest 2020 targets for the meat sector, he said. Talks were ongoing with a number of countries. However, he said the process was "quasi-diplomatic" and slow.
China was an obvious target for Ireland, Mr Gleeson told the seminar. With a population of 1.3bn, a small share of the market would be "extremely lucrative", he said.