Chinese lift trade ban on Irish beef in breakthrough for farming sector
CHINA has become the latest country to lift its ban on Irish beef.
The historic trade deal means Ireland will be the only European country to export beef to the Asian superpower.
Access to the Chinese market is a major boost to the Irish beef sector, and comes on the back of the US lifting its ban on Irish beef.
European beef has been banned in China and the US since the BSE crisis severely damaged the industry almost 15 years ago.
Speaking at the Fine Gael national conference in Mayo, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said months of "high level" negotiations with Chinese officials had resulted in the deal.
"I want to thank the Chinese authorities for following through on their commitments on beef access, and delivering an outcome which will pave the way for Irish beef access to China," Mr Kenny said.
"This is a fantastic breakthrough for the Irish farming and food industry. China, with its 1.35 billion people, is the biggest individual market in the world.
"While China has formally lifted its ban on Irish beef, the next step will require a Chinese veterinary inspection to approve individual processing plants for export. Nevertheless, we should take pride in the fact that Ireland is the only European country to make this significant breakthrough in both the US and Chinese markets," he added.
The Taoiseach had special praise for Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney for his role in orchestrating the landmark trade agreement.
Mr Coveney said the announcement follows "intensive political and diplomatic engagement with Chinese authorities".
He said Irish beef producers would now be able to get a share of the Chinese market where consumption is six million tonnes annually.
"It is also critically important from a reputational point of view that Irish food safety control systems have come through the intensive scrutiny of Chinese and US inspection authorities with flying colours."
Mr Coveney led two trade missions to China since he took office and also hosted Chinese ministers in Ireland.
The Taoiseach also discussed the beef ban with the Chinese premier Xi Jingping when they met two years ago.
An Ireland-China beef working group was created and Chinese authorities sent inspection teams to Ireland last year to review the standard of Irish farms and regulatory standards.
Chinese veterinary inspectors still have to approve beef processing plants before trade can formally begin.
Last year, Ireland food exports to China amounted to almost €620bn, according to Central Statistics Office figures.
Mr Kenny also announced a €1.45bn fund which will provide grants to 30,000 farmers who engagement environmentally friendly farming.