“The business relationship in China is very strongly associated with the human relationship people have,” Bord Bia CEO Jim O’Toole told the Irish Farmers Journal in Shanghai “we are here to show our customers that we are so keen to be back doing business with them, and to develop the relationship we had before we left off for COVID-19.

“To show up and to invite them to be part of this week is a big priority for us.”

There’s clear evidence in how popular the Bord Bia presence in China is among customers, with every event organised as part of the tour – covering products such as beef, dairy, fish and whiskey – all over-subscribed.

O’Toole says that the commitment to the Chinese market is not a small or short-term one, with the Bord Bia office in Shanghai now the second-largest overseas office the body has.

He also points out that having the Minister for Agriculture on this trip does help to bring some movement on further opening of China to more Irish exports.

When asked specifically about the lack of any announcement on bone-on beef, offal or sheep, O’Toole said “I think there is movement there, and the fact that we are able to have those meetings this week at government-to-government level, in person, is a big step forward.”

Overall, the Bord Bia CEO makes it clear that Ireland is very ambitious for its exports to China, but is aware of what can and cannot be achieved.

“We have no ambition to be in every supermarket across China. Irish beef is marketed in niches across the world, and China is no different in that respect. However, the niches in China can be huge. You have to readjust the dial every time you think about China.

“There is so much volume even in small opportunities here, so absolutely, for Bord Bia, it is about focus on finding the best fit for Irish product in this huge, and hugely diverse, market.”