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Hopeful Irish head for China

The cream of Ireland's food companies and agri-engineering enterprises -- and a few stragglers -- will be represented in a major trade mission to China next week.

The party, who fly out on Saturday, will be headed up by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and is due to spend a week in what was once considered the world's Middle Kingdom.

It had originally been touted that the mission would include around 50 company representatives and officials, but the trip has certainly caught the imagination of the Irish agriculture sector and the travelling party has swelled to 126.

All the major beef processors will be represented. Mark Goodman is named among a four-man AIBP team, while Dan Browne will be flying the flag for Dawn Meats.

Not to be outdone, Kildare Chilling, Kepak, Slaney Foods, Irish Country Meats, Ashbourne Meats and Dunbia have personnel heading east.

It's a similar story with the dairy processors. Jim Bergin and three more from Glanbia are making the trip, as are Dairygold chief executive Jim Woulfe, Lakelands' John Kelly and a trio from the Irish Dairy Board.

The pig and poultry sectors are well represented, with Jim Hanley, John O'Brien and Niamh Casey travelling for pig processors Rosderra, while QK Meats, Carton Brothers and Silverhill Foods are also taking part.

Real opportunities on the fisheries front were identified during the visit of the Chinese delegation to Ireland. With that in mind, it's little surprise that the Marine Institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara will be on the trip.

Among the fisheries companies represented are Castletownbere outfit Shellfish De La Mer, while Karl McHugh from the consortium that owns the super-trawler Atlantic Dawn is also lining out.

There are strong rumours of an announcement on the agri-engineering front during the trip and several firms are going on the trip.

Gerard Keenan, of Co Carlow diet-feeder manufacturers Keenan Systems, has just returned from China but is heading out again.

The equine industry will also be making a pitch, with Horse Sport Ireland chief executive Damian McDonald among those taking part.

Teagasc's Paul Ross and Frank O'Mara have also secured a place on the plane, alongside Bord Bia's 14 strong contingent, which is headed up by chief executive Aidan Cotter.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture has six officials accompanying the minister. The most senior of these is the Department's general secretary, Tom Moran. He will be shadowed on the trip by IFA president John Bryan, who lines out at No7 on the starting 126. I scraped in among the stragglers at 122.

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