Chinese market opened up to Irish beef

Leitrim TD Martin Kenny welcomes Chinese beef deal

"It has taken a huge effort by Team Ireland; Ministers, Departmental and agency officials over several years to get beef market access to China over the line, and I want to thank each and everyone who has made a contribution to this effort".

Now that threat has receded, Chinese consumers are keen to buy more beef and with the high cost of breeding cattle in China leading to insufficient domestic supply, the government has reconsidered its bans.

The other issue which is really important is they import and are very interested in, what the industry here would term, the fifth quarter - the product that's probably not as much in demand in the other markets that we are in.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which represents the country's valuable processing industry, described it as an "important breakthrough" after years of intensive efforts.

The broadcaster said those factories are ABP in Nenagh, Kepak Clonee, Liffey Meats, Dawn Meats Charleville and Kildare Chilling.

In total there are 25 plants throughout Ireland that have sought access to the market.

When asked what the message is now to Irish farmers, he said: "The message is, there are exacting demands in worldwide markets and here is another really, really important market - probably the single biggest in volume terms - which is recognising that we are capable of meeting those exacting and demanding standards". How significant? I don't think it's wise to put a figure on that. However, his predecessor Simon Coveney had estimated the market could be worth around €100m a year after the lifting of the BSE ban by Chinese authorities in 2015.

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ABP said it looked forward to beginning the contract and "pursuing" other opportunities that may arise in the market.

The Minister continued: "Our agri-food exports to China have increased roughly five-fold from around €200 million in 2010 to almost €1 billion a year ago".

The minister was confident that this development would prove beneficial and he was excited about the prospects it offered to the Irish beef sector.

He is due to lead a trade mission to China in May to further build on relations and push for the approval of five more beef plants, which have applied for access but have not yet been approved.

IFA beef chair Angus Woods highlighted the low income levels on beef farms, as the lobby group pointed out it must deliver for farmers.

"New markets without better margins for the producers were ultimately of little benefit".

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