Irish food producers could be set for quite a coup. One of the world's most powerful political figures sampled more than a few of their best wares today.
Having touched down in Shannon for a brief 48 hour flyover, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang accompanied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to an Irish beef and dairy farm in Gortbrack in county Mayo and was given the chance to enjoy a series of locally produced goods.
Among the wares was smoked salmon and dilisk soda bread from the Connemara Smokehouse in Galway, 'farm friendly' chicken with wild garlic from the Castlemine Farm in Roscommon, and a series of Irish Cheeses on brown bread crackers, along with Rua apple chutney, from the Carrowholly Farmhouse in Mayo.
Also on show was Bord Bia's Irish roast fillet with locally grown rocket and horseradish mayo, buttermilk pots with rhubarb ‘ripple’, Westport Grove jam, Keelings' strawberries, and dozens of other food products produced in Connacht.
The farm visit also included a celebration of traditional Irish music and dance, which has enjoyed a strong interest in China in recent years.
In a statement, the Government said the trip gave the Chinese leader first-hand experience of Ireland's high-quality agri-food sector, and would likely help to promote Ireland as an environmentally friendly tourism destination.
Full list of foods Mr Li Keqiang could tuck into today:
Roast Fillet of Bord Bia Quality Assured Beef, locally Grown Rocket, Mini Blaa Roll, Horseradish Mayo
Castlemine Farm, Co. Roscommon
Hot and Cold Smoked Salmon with Pickles and Dilisk Soda Bread
Connemara Smokehouse, Co. Galway
Burren Smokehouse, Co. Clare
Free Range Ham Hock and Roast Chicken Terrine with Wild Garlic Mayo
Castlemine Farm, Co. Roscommon
‘Friendly Farmer’ Chicken, Athenry, Co. Galway
St Tola Goats’ Cheese, Dill, Beet Relish, Sourdough Bread
Inagh, Co Clare
Irish Cheeses with Sheridan’s Brown Bread Crackers and Rua Apple Chutney
Carrowholly Farmhouse Cheese, Co Mayo
Killeen, Farmhouse Cheese, Co Galway
Cashel Blue, Co Tipperary
Buttermilk Pots with Rhubarb ‘Ripple’
Rhubarb – Garvey’s Farm
Scones, Cream, Strawberry Jam
Westport Grove Jam, Co Mayo
Achill Sea Salt Caramel and Chocolate Brownie Bites.
Porter Fruit Cake
Goya’s, Co Galway
Tea, Coffee, Water, Home-made Lemonade
Pónaire Roastery, Co. Limerick
Fior Uisce Bottled Water, Co. Mayo
Café Rua Lemonade
Meat and Fish:
Beef Fillet and Pork – Derek and Brendan Allen, Castlemine Farm, Co. Roscommon
Pasture Raised Chickens - Ronan Byrne, ‘Friendly Farmer’, Athenry , Co Galway
Cold Smoked Salmon - Connemara Smokehouse
Hot Smoked Salmon - Burren Smokehouse
Cheese and Dairy:
St Tola Goats’ Cheese, Co Clare
Killeen Cows’ Cheese, Co Galway
Carrowholly Cheese, Co Mayo
Cashel Blue Cheese, Co. Tipperary
Connacht Gold – Milk , Butter and Cream
Garvey Farm, Gortbrack, Ower, Co. Mayo
Rocket and salad leaves from Stephen Gould, Headford, Co. Galway & Ger Langan, Rural Training Scheme , Castlebar
Scallions and Radishes – Green Earth Organics, Corrandulla, Co. Galway
Breads and Scones
Rua Delicatessen, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
Porter cake, Goya’s Galway
Chutneys and condiments – Rua, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
Strawberry Jam – Westport Grove
‘Brown bread’ crackers – Sheridan Cheesemongers
Achill Sea Salt – Co Mayo
Premier Li was greeted by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan when he touched down in Shannon Airport as part of a two-day trip intended to deepen relations between Ireland and China.
The head of the Chinese government, and one of the key stewards for one of the world’s largest economics, was accompanied by a number of government ministers, as well as his wife Professor Cheng, ahead of an extensive visit in South America .
Speaking in Shannon, Minister Noonan said securing China investment in the financial services in Ireland "will be one of the topics on the agenda this evening".
“Our principal interest up to now in the Chinese market has been exports. They regard the baby food in Ireland as of very high quality and safe and there’s a huge demand for it.
“As well as that, in November the Chinese market opened up for the export of Irish beef and the actual exporting of the beef so that it’s available in the Chinese supermarkets we would hope will begin very shortly.”
Bord Bia CEO Aidan Cotter said the visit marked “another important step in securing further market opportunities for Irish exporters in this high potential market.”
Speaking in Mayo, he commented: “China is our sixth largest export market overall, [and] our second most important for dairy and pig meat.”
“In 2014, international markets (those outside the European Union) were the star performers in Irish food and drink exports achieving their fifth year of continuous growth in 2014.”
“The Chinese government places great emphasis on food safety and today Premier Li was informed about the commitment farmers of Ireland have… [to] animal health, welfare and traceability.”
As part of their Origin Green Programme, Bord Bia said they were currently carbon foot printing approximately 700 farms per week.
Premier Li is the second most powerful man in China and he will to stay over night in the Ashford Castle in Cong, were a series of high level meetings are expected to take place between ministers from both Governments.
“[Having] Premier here today speaks volumes about the ties between China and this part of Ireland,” Shannon Chairman Rose Hynes.
“Very strong trade links are being developed between China and Ireland and, in that context, we are delighted to see such focus on the Shannon and wider West of Ireland region.”
Today, the Taoiseach will welcome his counterpart, Chinese Premier Mr Li Keqiang, to his home county of Mayo. The two leaders will hold bilateral talks with over a dozen ministers and vice ministers from both countries in attendance.