The Chinese beef market was opened to Irish beef on 16 April 2018 at the end of a process that took several years.
The inaugural market access annual report, published by the Department of Agriculture, has detailed the steps that took place along the way to open the Chinese market.
Ireland was the first major European beef exporter to secure access to the Chinese beef market.
It is expected that Chinese consumers will eat close to 9m tonnes of beef by 2020.
Beef imports stand at 688,000t in 2017, over 100,000t more than Ireland produces annually.
It is estimated these imports will rise to 2.3m tonnes by 2022.
Consumers in China are estimated to have consumed 8.5m tonnes of beef in 2018, second only to the USA.
While beef consumption is low at 4kg per capita in comparison with 19kg per capita in Ireland, this is expected to grow.
An increase of just 1kg would equate to demand for an additional 1.4m tonnes of beef.
It is forecasted the demand for premium imported beef will rise significantly driven by increased urbanisation, higher disposable incomes and health awareness.
The first major step in securing access was the lifting of the BSE ban on Irish beef by Chinese authorities in 2015.
This was followed by a successful inspection visit in 2016 focusing on competent authority systems by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
Once Irish control systems were approved, a protocol on the export of frozen boneless beef from Ireland to China was signed in April 2017. Frozen boneless beef accounts for 80% of all Chinese imports of beef.
Individual factories who had applied for market access were audited by the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) in August of 2017.
The first three of these plants were approved in April 2018 and, following a trade mission to China in May, a further three plants were approved.
Work is currently under way to progress applications for more factories to increase Ireland’s ability to supply the market.