The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. and Minister of State with special responsibility for New Market Development, Martin Heydon T.D, have led an intensive series of virtual trade engagements with existing and potential customers in China. These meetings, facilitated by Bord Bia, are a timely opportunity to engage and further deepen relationships between Irish agri-food exporters and their customers and are necessary to continue the trajectory of market growth for Irish food and drink in China. These engagements were part of a wider series of events around St Patrick’s Day, which saw meetings with key trade customers across the globe.
Minister McConalogue stated, “Last year, approximately a third of Ireland’s total food and drink exports were destined for international markets outside of Europe. Irish exports to Asian markets have grown very rapidly over the last decade. Indeed, China is now Ireland’s fourth largest agri-food export destination, with exports valued at over €872 million last year. For Irish exports of dairy and pigmeat, it is our second largest market”. Continuing the Minister said “In normal times, my Department and Bord Bia would lead at least one trade mission to China every year, and I am hopeful that an in-person trade mission to China will be possible before the end of this year.”
In relation to market access for Irish beef exports, which has been suspended since May of last year, Minister McConalogue emphasised that there is ongoing dialogue, “My officials, through the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing, continue to engage positively with their Chinese counterparts with a view to re-opening market access for Irish beef. I very much hope that trade will resume soon, but we must recognise that the timing of that decision lies with the Chinese authorities.”
Minister McConalogue also noted that both he and Minister Heydon had recently had a virtual meeting with China’s Ambassador to Ireland, Ambassador He, at which a number of market access and trade issues were raised. In particular Minister McConalogue stressed that he was anxious to see trade in Irish beef to China resume as soon as possible. It was agreed that officials from both sides would continue to work closely to find a solution which would allow trade to restart.
Minister Heydon said, “China isa critical market for the Irish food industry, with growth driven by the reputation of Ireland as a safe and sustainable producer of high-quality food and drink. In addition to dairy, meat and seafood, China is also showing promise as a market for Irish spirit drinks. Last year, China and the EU signed an agreement to recognise and protect over 100 European Geographical Indications, including Irish Whiskey and Irish Cream liqueur. This agreement recognises the unique characteristics and exceptional quality of these Irish products and protects them from imitators.”
Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy said, “The absence of in-market engagement for Irish exporters through traditional Trade Mission activities means that the delivery of market intelligence and on-the-ground market expertise has taken on increased importance. This week Bord Bia hosted a business briefing on Driving Growth in China. Over 180 attendees participated to hear the latest consumer and market trends and to understand Bord Bia’s plans for the dairy, beef, seafood and alcohol sectors in the region. Last year, Bord Bia launched the Thinking House in Shanghai – a dedicated insight centre for Irish exporters – which has already delivered a wide range of projects, including a Chinese Future Proofing Toolkit, grass-fed research, several bespoke client projects, and our most recent piece: the COVID attitudes tracker. This measures current Chinese consumer sentiment on imported food in the context of the pandemic, to enable Irish food and drink exporters to realise the significant opportunities in the region.”