Bord Bia is ready to hit the ground running on sheepmeat promotions in China, chief executive Tara McCarthy has said.

The market is expected to open to Irish meat within months.

“We have a clear strategy developed for Irish sheepmeat in China and are ready to hit the ground running, leveraging strategic partnerships with key customers,” she said.

“Our focus will be on raising awareness of Irish sheepmeat through food service-focused events, targeting influential chefs and trade customers. While imports are currently dominated by two main competitors, we are confident that Irish sheepmeat can carve out a niche and premium market in China.”

China imported 365,000t of sheepmeat last year, valued at over $1.74bn. Currently, imports account for 8% of total sheepmeat consumption in China.

The two largest suppliers, New Zealand and Australia, represent 97% of all imports in volume terms (New Zealand 55% and Australia 42% according to the global trade atlas data for 2020).

Bord Bia’s China manager, Conor O’Sullivan, said the consistent growth in Chinese import demand represents a positive platform for Irish sheepmeat as it prepares to enter the market.

“The premiumisation of China’s retail and food service sectors has transformed China from a market for cheap cuts to one with opportunity for every cut of sheepmeat.”

Sheepmeat accounts for 6% of Chinese meat consumption at 3.8kg per person per annum. While 65% of sheepmeat consumption is through food service – typically enjoyed in hotpots and stews, or barbecued – at-home consumption is rising as consumers become more familiar with how to cook lamb.

Out-of-home consumption is significantly higher in urban areas with growing affluent populations, where imported meat is more likely to be consumed.


In November, Bord Bia, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, will be hosting a series of lamb-focused meetings with key trade buyers and importers.

Bord Bia’s strategy for sheepmeat in China will be focussed on restaurant and food service business, with events to include trade seminars and trade shows, chef demonstrations, and a chef’s master series.

Consumer promotions will be focused on e-commerce via promotions and partnerships with websites such as, Tmall, and Pinduoduo.

Just over half of all Chinese retail sales occur online, making China the largest e-commerce market in the world.