China will allow Irish farmers to export beef to China after granting approval to a number of meat processing establishments, the Irish minister for agriculture announced yesterday.

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CHINA - China will allow Irish farmers to export beef to China after granting approval to a number of meat processing establishments, the Irish minister for agriculture announced yesterday.

"I understand that the Chinese authorities will list a number of our beef establishments within the next few days," said minister Michael Creed.

"The opening of this key market presents an excellent opportunity for the Irish beef sector, from farmers through to processors.

"Opening and developing new markets is also a key part of our response to the uncertainties arising from Brexit."

China first banned exports of beef from Europe in 2001 in response to the outbreak of mad cow disease and the ban also covered US beef after the disease appeared in the United States in 2003.

Now that threat has receded, Chinese consumers are keen to buy more beef and with the high cost of breeding cattle in China leading to insufficient domestic supply, the government has reconsidered its bans.

Creed said the decision made by Chinese authorities "represents a powerful endorsement of Ireland’s high standards by the Chinese administration, for which food safety is a prerequisite for trade."

Ireland’s agri-food exports to China have increased about five-fold from around €200 million ($247.73 million) in 2010 to nearly $1.24 billion last year, which Minister Creed said, "has been a remarkable achievement and underlines the importance of the Chinese market."

For beef, the door has now been opened and there is a real opportunity for the industry to build on this, added Creed, who will lead a trade mission to China next month to further build on Ireland’s trade relationships.

In 2016, China became the world’s second-largest beef importer behind the US, importing 800,000 metric tons worth $2.6 billion. Chinese reliance on imports grew in 2017, when beef consumption rose by 4 per cent, outstripping domestic production, which increased by just 1 per cent.

In January, China said it would lift its ban on British beef but farmers may have to wait years before receiving regulatory approval from Beijing; it took three years from lifting the ban on Irish beef for China to approve imports.

Plans to lift China’s ban on British beef could potentially generate $350 million over a five-year period, said Jane King, chief executive of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

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RFD Press office

Randox Food Diagnostics digital press officer

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