Tuned in: East eats best of Irish food
THE Chinese are coming, and they're taking away more of our food than ever before.
As the Mayor of Beijing arrived to officially "twin" his city with Dublin yesterday, it emerged that China's growing middle classes are eating their way through record amounts of Irish food.
Tayto crisps, Dubliner cheese and Kerrygold butter are among the products that have made their way on to Chinese shop shelves, boosting total sales of Irish food there by 20pc this year to €150m.
Rapid growth, urbanisation and growing wealth have transformed Chinese eating habits, leading to soaring demand for meat and dairy products which will be vital for the future of Ireland's food industry, an Agricultural Science Association (ASA) conference heard. "This year's big growth in Irish exports comes on top of 12pc growth in 2010.
"Last year Irish dairy exports to China exceeded €100m for the first time and our meat exports, primarily pork, grew by over 50pc," Bord Bia Asia Manager Breffini Kennedy said.
The links between the Chinese and Irish capitals were extended yesterday when Beijing's Mayor Guo Jinlong met his Dublin counterpart Andrew Montague during his first visit to Ireland.
The two signed a memorandum of understanding at the Mansion House to expand civic, economic, cultural, scientific and educational co-operation between the two capitals.
As part of the visit, traditional Chinese musicians from the Central China Music Conservatory performed with primary school children at St Joseph's in Ballymun.
The two mayors attended a conference and photo exhibition at the National Convention Centre to highlight business links between the two countries.
China is now Ireland's eighth-largest trading partner with €4.2bn worth of trade between the two countries last year.