Fourteen Irish beef plants have been approved for export to China following audits by Chinese authorities.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed announced that all plants audited in September 2019 had been approved. The audits took place against the backdrop of farmer protests outside factory gates.
Seven beef factories – ABP Nenagh and Clones; Kepak Clonee; Foyle Donegal; Liffey Meats, Slaney; and Dawn Charleville – are already approved.
Between them, they have exported just over 4,650t of Irish beef to China so far this year – four times more than was exported in 2018.
Currently, the Chinese market is only available for frozen beef from cattle under 30 months.
Minister Creed said: “This is the strongest endorsement possible of Irish food safety standards. We were the first country in western Europe to achieve access to the Chinese market and now it is clear that our plants are meeting the high and exacting standards of the Chinese authorities.”
Engagement on market access for sheepmeat will be the priority for the visit of vice-minister Zou of the General Administration of Customs of the Peoples Republic of China next week.
A member of staff fills online orders at a Hema Fresh supermarket in Shanghai, China. \ Thomas Hubert
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) senior director Cormac Healy described the approval as a positive development, saying: "A massive amount of work by processors and MII has gone into getting to this point. The huge efforts of the DAFM market access team should also be recognised.”
“Building access for Irish beef and other meats to international growth markets is crucial to maximising market returns to the entire sector, particularly when faced with challenging internal EU market conditions.”
He added that MII and its members would work with the Department of Agriculture to complete final paperwork and clear the way for exports to commence and extend the list of eligible products that can be traded.
ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham has said the approvals would only be good news if it translated into better prices for farmers.
Graham said: “We know the Chinese market is an important one, but we need to see the primary producers benefiting from it. It’s not good enough to expect the producer to simply produce more for no extra gain while others reap all the rewards.”
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