€100m export market for Irish beef in China 'may just be tip of iceberg'
Efforts under way to expand access to five more factories
A €100m export market for frozen Irish beef in China may be just the tip of the iceberg as consumption is growing rapidly among the expanding Asian middle class.
Ireland's meat processors and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed highlighted the strong potential of the changing consumers' appetites in the Far East, where beef imports are expected to double by 2020.
After years of negotiations and inspections, Ireland has become the first European beef exporter to secure access to China.
"For beef, the door has now been opened and there is a real opportunity for the industry to build on this," said Mr Creed, who is travelling with a trade mission to the massive SIAL food exhibition in Shanghai next month.
So far three Irish beef processing factories - the Goodman-owned ABP Clones in Co Monaghan, Slaney Foods in Co Wexford, and Foyle Meats in Co Donegal - have been approved to ship frozen boneless beef after meeting the criteria following strict audits.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which represents the country's valuable processing industry, described it as an "important breakthrough" after years of intensive efforts.
However, farm lobby groups say it must deliver monies to farmers on the ground, as beef farmers struggle with low incomes.
It also is being viewed as a potential 'safety net' for the industry. With Brexit looming, efforts have been made to diversify into new markets. Currently 50pc of Ireland's €2.5bn beef exports go to the UK.