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After a day of meetings with key political figures in China, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney T.D. announced a major step forward for Irish beef access in China. The Minister , who this week is leading the largest ever Irish agri-food trade mission to China, announced the breakthrough after bilateral meetings this morning in Beijing with the Chinese Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Han Changfu)and the Chinese Minister responsible for market access (Mr. Zhi Shuping).
The Minister commented “I am delighted to have secured agreement from my Chinese counterpart to send a formal inspection team to Ireland in December. This follows intensive technical engagement between my Department and the relevant Chinese Authorities over the past two years. The question of beef access has also been raised at the highest political levels, and I am delighted that we were in a position to advance this process during my visit to China.”
The Chinese visit will include full systems and plant audits of all aspects of the beef inspection system in Ireland. The Minister added “this announcement is a breakthrough, and builds on my first visit here two years ago and the subsequent progress in the joint working group between both sides. While we must respect the Chinese process of technical evaluation, I am delighted that we have moved to this stage and that we have the opportunity to prove first hand, our credentials as a safe secure supplier of world class beef. Demand for beef in China is expected to rise by 1m tonnes over the next five years, and I am determined that Irish farmers and processors should have access to this critically important market. Beef access to the Chinese market is a huge prize and my Department and the beef industry will now work to ensure that that inspection visit is successful”.
The Minister also announced a number of other important milestones for the Irish meat sector including a key first step in securing access for Irish sheepmeat. He also raised the question of access for Irish poultry meat.
Commenting, the Minister said “I was delighted to formally submit to AQSIQ the questionnaire marking the first step in securing access for Irish sheepmeat to China. Obtaining the green light from China to move to this stage represents an important milestone, and with growing Chinese demand for high quality lamb I believe Irish producers are well placed to take advantage of the market opportunity if we can progress this quickly”.
In other developments, Minister Coveney announced that he has signed an agreement with his Chinese counterparts for a pilot electronic certification system for the dairy sector. Irish dairy exports to China were worth over 270m in 2014 and the new agreement means that the certification of these products will be much more efficient under the new electronic system. Agreement on the development of this system also marks Ireland out as only the third Country in the world to secure agreement on the development of such a system with China.
The Minister also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Minister Zhi Shuping of the Chinese Quarantine and Inspection Service, on the safety of fisheries products. Speaking after the signing, the Minister said that he was confident that this memorandum would lay the foundations for a smoother process for the importation of Irish aquatic products to lucrative Chinese markets.
The focus shifts to dairy tomorrow, when the Minister will host a major seminar with key players in the Chinese and Irish dairy sectors in Beijing