Farm Ireland

Saturday 19 January 2019

Chinese beef market opens to exports from Ireland

European consumers are looking for higher value cuts.
European consumers are looking for higher value cuts.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The opening of the Chinese beef market to exports from Ireland has been confirmed.

Following months of anticipation the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed said this morning that he understands that the Chinese authorities will list a number of our beef establishments within the next few days.

"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.”  

While, Department of Agriculture officials will complete the final technicalities to allow trade to commence in the coming weeks three meat plants are understood to have gained approval.

The approval gives Ireland access to the world’s fastest growing beef market and second largest importer for the first time.

The Minister said he firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market and said he looked forward to the opportunities that this access will bring.

Within the last 30 years Chinese demand for meat has quadrupled, and the country now consumes one quarter of the world’s meat supply. On average Chinese beef consumption per capita is 4kg, compared to average Irish consumption of 19kg of beef per capita per year.

However, despite increases in domestic beef production in China, consumer demand for premium imported beef is forecast to rise significantly, driven by increasing urbanisation, higher disposable incomes and health awareness. 

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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.

Overall beef imports to China have increased from under 100,000 tonnes in 2012 to around 600,000 tonnes in 2016. Frozen boneless beef accounts for around 80pc of these imports.

Kieran Fitzgerald of Bord Bia and Derek Daly of Dawn Meats pictured at Dawn Meats, Charleville during Bord Bia's Marketplace 2018 Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Kieran Fitzgerald of Bord Bia and Derek Daly of Dawn Meats pictured at Dawn Meats, Charleville during Bord Bia's Marketplace 2018 Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Minister Creed said 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.

”This decision also represents a powerful endorsement of Ireland’s high standards by the Chinese Administration, for which food safety is a prerequisite for trade.”

Minister Creed also highlighted that Ireland's agri-food exports to China have increased roughly five-fold from around €200 million in 2010 to nearly €1 billion last year.

Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy, said the announcement is timely as it follows just days after her organisation hosted the China Meat Association and 17 senior representatives from leading Chinese meat importers as part of our Marketplace International event.

"All of the visiting Chinese delegates had the opportunity to visit Irish beef farms and processers, giving them a first-hand experience and insight into Irish food production.”

Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the Ibec sector organisation which represents the meat processing and export business in Ireland has welcomed the announcement the formal approval of the first three Irish beef processing plants.

Cormac Healy, MII Director, said that “this is an important breakthrough for the Irish beef sector and comes after many years of extensive efforts by both the Government and the industry to secure access to the rapidly growing Chinese beef import market. We now understand that the way is clear for the first three beef processing plants to commence exports of frozen beef to China. We would expect that this first group of plants will be in a position to commence trade with China in the very near future”.

Mr Healy concluded “this is an important first step,. MII will continue to work with the Department of Agriculture and the Chinese Authorities to quickly secure the approval to export for all Irish beef processing plants and to extend the list of eligibility products that can be traded”.

IFA President Joe Healy also welcomed the announcement. However, he said the key issue for Irish farmers is that it will deliver a higher margin and price back to them.

The IFA President also said it is important that the terms and conditions attached to access for Irish beef are not overly stringent.

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