Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Irish food companies aim to woo Chinese market

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Irish food companies are preparing for a major onslaught on the Chinese market.

Most of the country's top food companies will be included in a high-powered trade delegation to China later this spring.

The travelling party will be led by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, with the visit taking place from Sunday, April 15 to Friday, April 20.

Co-ops and companies involved in the dairy, meat, seafood and consumer foods sectors are taking part in the trip, which aims to woo local food buyers and open the massive Chinese market for Irish enterprises.

Letters were sent out last week to canvas the level of interest among food companies and the early reaction has been extremely positive.

A provisional itinerary for the trip, which is being organised by the Department of Agriculture and Bord Bia, includes visits to local food processing facilities, farms and supermarkets.

The delegation will fly into Beijing on Sunday, April 15 and then travel to the cities of Hohot, Suzhou and Shanghai over the following five days.

Meetings with what the itinerary describes as "targeted business contacts" will be organised for each venue, while the travelling party will also be briefed by representatives of Irish companies that have existing operations in China.

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The general consensus in the beef, seafood and dairy sectors is that China offers huge potential as an export market for Irish produce. The covering letter to the food companies says: "China has a population of 1.3billion and it feeds over one fifth of the world's population with only 1/15th of the world's arable land."

Irish food and drink exports to China are estimated to have been worth €185million in 2011. The main components of the trade were dairy ingredients, pig meat, fish and alcoholic beverages. Exports to Asia as a whole rose by 33pc in 2011 to top €350m.

While the potential to significantly grow dairy exports to China has been widely recognised, there is growing optimism that the Asian giant is on the cusp of reopening its market to European beef imports. This offers huge opportunities for the Irish beef sector.

Indo Farming