'A small part of the Chinese market could deliver huge rewards'

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It is understood three Irish factories have been fully approved by Chinese authorities for export; ABP Clones, Co Monaghan, Slaney Meats in Co Wexford and Donegal Meat Processors.

Bord Bia has welcomed the announcement saying Ireland is the first European beef exporter to secure access to China.

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.

Trade growth between Ireland and China clocked up a bigger percentage growth than with any other country past year, at 37 per cent.

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

CEO Tara McCarthy said: "Bord Bia, and in particular, our Shanghai office, has been actively planning and preparing for today's breakthrough, and we are now well-positioned and ready to maximize this significant opportunity for Irish beef exporters". However, work was still continuing to open up the new market to a further five plants which have already been audited including ABP Nenagh, Kepak Clonee, Liffey Meats, Dawn Meats Charleville and Kildare Chilling. China is Ireland's third-largest market overall.

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Deputy Kenny said, "The opening of the Chinese market is a positive move for Irish beef farmers and I congratulate those involved in negotiating it". Mr Creed insisted he was "not going to put a figure on how much Ireland will export to China". A formal agreement to lift the ban was announced in 2015.

"Our agri-food exports to China have increased roughly five-fold from around €200 million in 2010 to almost €1 billion previous year", Minister Creed said.

The minister was confident that this development would prove beneficial and he was excited about the prospects it offered to the Irish beef sector. Dairy exports have led the way, with pigmeat also taking a slice of the market.

Pat McCormack, president of the farm group ICMSA, said it must "benefit the people producing the actual food".

He added that the more markets Ireland could access, the bigger the opportunities of delivering better margins for the primary producer.

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