Ir­ish beef set for Chinese shelves by mid-sum­mer

Six pro­ces­sors cleared for ex­ports — and sheep meat ac­cess is next tar­get

Irish Independent - Farming - - FRONT PAGE - CLAIRE FOX

IR­ISH beef should be on the mar­ket in China by mid-sum­mer — and the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Michael Creed, is chal­leng­ing the meat com­pa­nies to max­imise its po­ten­tial.

Speak­ing at the Ir­ish Em­bassy in Bei­jing yes­ter­day at the start of a week-long trade mis­sion to China, Min­is­ter Creed (pic­tured right) was re­luc­tant to put a po­ten­tial value on the Chinese beef mar­ket, but he said six Ir­ish pro­ces­sors will have ac­cess to it this year.

“I won’t put a fig­ure on it be­cause I think that would be un­wise. It’s our func­tion to open the mar­ket; it’s the in­dus­try’s role to sell there­after,” Min­is­ter Creed said.

How­ever, he pointed out that China is the third big­gest ex­port mar­ket for Ir­ish food and drink, and that beef will add sig­nif­i­cantly to over­all trade.

While the IFA wel­comed the open­ing of China for Ir­ish beef, its pres­i­dent Joe Healy said ac­cess needed to be ex­tended be­yond the cur­rent con­fines of bone­less and frozen beef from un­der30-month cat­tle.

“To cap­ture a sub­stan­tial mar­ket share in the Chinese beef mar­ket, it is very im­por­tant that el­i­gi­bil­ity is se­cured for all Ir­ish beef prod­ucts and not just frozen bone­less beef,” he said.

“It is essen­tial that the mar­ket op­por­tu­nity is not re­stric­tive and the pro­to­col is de­vel­oped to al­low beef prod­ucts from all Ir­ish live­stock.” Mr Healy pointed out that China con­sumes one-quar­ter of the world’s meat sup­ply, and im­ported 700,000 tonnes of beef in 2017. The to­tal beef mar­ket in China is ex­pected to dou­ble by 2020.

In­fant for­mula

Mean­while, Ire­land’s rep­u­ta­tion as a trusted sup­plier of top-qual­ity in­fant for­mula will bol­ster Ir­ish beef sales to China, Bord Bia pre­dicted. James O’Don­nell, Bord Bia’s China man­ager, ex­plained that Chinese moth­ers pay €45-55 for an 800g con­tainer of Ir­ish-made in­fant for­mula be­cause they know it is safe and of a high stand- ard. He said this recog­ni­tion of Ir­ish prod­uct as safe will help Ir­ish beef sales.

“There’s very strict reg­u­la­tion around in­fant for­mula in China so the fact that Ire­land can meet those reg­u­la­tions is very ben­e­fi­cial for Ir­ish beef,” Mr O’Don­nell said.

“It’s very much a fe­male mar­ket. The mid­dle- to up­per-class fe­male who might have been ed­u­cated abroad is the type of con­sumer we are aim­ing our beef at.”

China’s large pop­u­la­tion and low breast-feed­ing rate make it the most lu­cra­tive and com­pet­i­tive mar­ket for in­fant for­mula.

China im­ported 20,000 tonnes of in­fant for­mula in Jan­uary 2018 com­pared to 15,000 tonnes the pre­vi­ous year, with Ire­land be­ing a sig­nif­i­cant sup­plier.

IN terms of sheep meat ex­ports to China, Min­is­ter Creed said that gain­ing ac­cess to the mar­ket was the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s next pri­or­ity, but that this process was just start­ing.

“We’re at the very early stages on sheep meat ac­cess; we were ef­fec­tively told in the most po­lite way pos­si­ble to fo­cus on one prod­uct at a time and we did, we pri­ori­tised beef,” Min­is­ter Creed said.

“We’re at very pre­lim­i­nary stages of sheep meat ac­cess. I can’t say when we will clear all the hur­dles be­fore us, but we are work­ing on deep­en­ing the re­la­tion­ship.”

Al­ter­na­tive

While Ire­land’s to­tal food and drink ex­ports to China grew by 5pc in 2017 to €907m, Min­is­ter Creed said it was too am­bi­tious to say that the Chinese mar­ket would sur­pass the UK and US in terms of im­por­tance.

How­ever, he said China pro­vided a valu­able al­ter­na­tive out­let for pro­duce.

“Ge­og­ra­phy should al­ways be a de­ter­mi­nate of trade. The UK is our big­gest mar­ket for beef, as it is for pork,” he said.

“About 50pc of our beef goes into the mar­ket there, so it’s re­ally op­por­tune that we look for new mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties and there is no bet­ter mar­ket op­por­tu­nity for us than the Chinese mar­ket in terms of the scale of it.”

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