A senior Chinese minister is to visit Ireland on Easter Monday as anticipation grows that Irish beef is about to clear the final hurdle for access to the Chinese market.

Ireland has been chasing China as a beef market for the past five years, and it is a potentially huge market.

The visiting Chinese minister’s brief includes food health and safety, which would include the detailed certification process required for all beef imports into China.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed the Chinese visit to the Irish Farmers Journal, saying: “The AQSIQ minister is scheduled to visit Ireland on 17 and 18 April and arrangements are currently being finalised.”

China was the second largest importer of beef in the world last year, importing 825,000t. This is forecast to rise to almost 1.2m tonnes by 2025.

This is in addition to Hong Kong, which is a 375,000t market for which Ireland is already approved and where we sold 16,035t of beef in 2016.

Industry experts believe that should Ireland secure access for beef, China could quickly become Ireland’s second most important destination after the UK, and grow to 10% of export sales.

Beef destined for the Chinese market would have to come from cattle under 30 months old.

China currently imports beef from Brazil, Australia, Argentina and Uruguay.

With the appointment of a new Chinese ambassador to Ireland also imminent, it is believed the door to China could finally open for Irish beef.

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