“We are giants in food production,” was a line used by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue during his Bord Bia-supported trade mission to southeast Asia last week.
The minister’s visit to Japan and Singapore was filled with intergovernmental meetings, green ties and incorrectly held chopsticks, all with the aim of promoting Irish produce in these lucrative markets.
Monaghan’s Silver Hill Duck was an obvious success story, along with ABP-supplied Angus beef, with sirloin steaks retailing for a whopping €72/kg.
ABP is also flat out supplying Irish beef tongue to Japan. It’s a chewy meat that when cooked right is not far off a beef burger bought at Electric Picnic around midnight. I’m reassured, however, that the minister didn’t spend all his time on tongue negotiations, with the Singapore leg of the trip focusing on beef and lamb cuts more familiar to ourselves.
After receiving access in 2011 and 2012, respectively, Irish beef and lamb are now on the shop shelves at high-end retailers in Singapore, I see.
Up until now, they’ve been in top hotels and fancy restaurants. Ten years is a long time to have access to a market, but finally the regular consumer in Singapore will be able to sample Irish beef and lamb.
Another giant in Tokyo was the Wagyu bullock, worth €15,000. These beasts, fetching a slaughter price of €20/kg to €30/kg, put my poor old Angus to shame. We’re not so badly off though, as I hear Kepak’s John Stone steaks are making €150, and that’s on a bad day.
Perhaps the Irish farmer is the biggest giant of them all, plastered everywhere in green fields with smiles.
When the trade mission has gone home, they are the enduring face of Irish food exports in southeast Asia. I wonder will these farmers get more recognition in Asia for the environmentally sustainable way they produce food than they do at home?