Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD is in China this week for Ireland's first post-COVID-19 trade mission to the world's second-most populous country.

Agri-food exports from Ireland to China total more than €700m and the mission will feature a series of events promoting Irish food and drink sales in the market.

Minister McConalogue said: “With the resumption of Irish beef exports to the market, this is an excellent opportunity to further promote the sector in China and to communicate Ireland’s grass-fed and premium farming credentials for both meat and dairy."

Bord Bia will host 14 Irish meat and dairy companies representing Ireland at SIAL, the largest food and drink trade show in China this week.

Irish exporters 'ideally placed'

Its CEO Jim O’Toole said: "China's GDP per capita has increased tenfold in the last 20 years, making it the world’s second largest economy today, and a growing middle class with high disposable incomes in Chinese cities is creating an aspirational consumer base.

“Irish exporters are ideally placed to service these consumer demands, as Ireland’s focus on sustainably produced high-quality food and drink exports, backed by the Origin Green programme, offers the perfect solution to this growing Chinese market.”

The trade mission begins on Monday 15 May, with bilateral meetings in Beijing between Irish and Chinese government officials.

Later in the week, the delegation moves to Shanghai where the SIAL conference is being held.

Nine meat and five dairy Irish companies are exhibiting at SIAL, with Dairygold and Kerry launching new products for the Chinese market at the event.

Beef and pigmeat

The trade mission is also key for the Irish beef sector, which recently regained access to the Chinese market.

A major focus of the trip will be on the upcoming promotion of Irish beef and pigmeat across China in both retail – online and instore – and foodservice channels.

The visit will also include an EU meat trade seminar in Shanghai and a chef masterclass in Beijing.

Both events will bring together two of Bord Bia’s EU co-funded campaigns – European Beef and Lamb – Ireland, working with nature and European Pork and Poultry – Excellence in Food Safety and Quality Assurance.

Infant formula

Irish dairy exports to China have grown significantly over the last decade, driven by demand for imported branded infant formula. In recent years, import demand in this category has declined, as Chinese consumers have increasingly chosen domestically manufactured brands.

At the same time, there is growing ageing demographic in China. By 2035, an estimated 400m people in China will be aged 60 and over, representing 30% of the population.

As a result, an increased focus on health and wellness is creating opportunities for imported ingredients to service Chinese manufacturers' needs in the categories of sports nutrition, adult nutrition and food for special medical purposes. Ireland’s dairy industry has strong capability in this field.