Irish agri-food exports to China worth €100m, but beef exports only worth €432,000

File photo
File photo
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Irish agri-food exports to China are currently worth almost €100m, but beef exports for the first eight months of 2018 were only worth €432,000, new figures show.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, recently detailed the level of Irish agri-food exports to China, and said he is "reasonably" happy with the level of beef exports to date.

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) by the end of August 2018, Irish beef exports to China were 260t or €432,000.

China lifted its ban on Irish beef in 2015, but it was only in April of this year that the first shipments of Irish beef went to China, the first European country to gain access to the huge market.

Larry Goodman's ABP group was the first Irish processor to sign a deal to export, when it signed €50m deal to supply Chinese restaurant chain Wowprime in what is a significant first for the sector.

Last week, Minister Creed said he was "reasonably pleased" with thelevel of exports given that the trade only commenced during the summer.

"It indicates that Irish beef companies are beginning to gain a foothold in the Chinese market."

Earlier this year, processors and Mr Creed were reluctant to set a firm figure on the potential value of lucrative contracts to the region. Mr Creed insisted he was "not going to put a figure on how much Ireland will export to China".

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However, his predecessor Simon Coveney had estimated the market could be worth around €100m a year after the lifting of the BSE ban by Chinese authorities in 2015.

Total Irish agri-food trade exports to China were €974m in 2017. China is now Ireland's third largest market overall for agri-food exports. Dairy exports reached €667m and pigmeat exports were over €100m in 2017.

These were the two largest categories of food exported to China, and for both of these commodities China was Ireland's second largest destination market according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) trade data.

"By gaining access to China, we have opened a very significant beef market for Irish beef companies. It is up to the beef companies to avail of this opportunity."

On average Chinese beef consumption is now 4kg per person per year, he said.

"While that may be considered low when compared to average Irish consumption of 19kg of beef per capita per year, it underlines the potential for further growth in consumer demand for beef, driven by increasing urbanisation and higher disposable incomes.

"Total beef imports to China were around 600,000 tonnes in 2016. That is more than Ireland’s total beef exports to all markets last year. I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market and I look forward to the opportunities that this access will bring."

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