Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Questions (197)

John Lyons


197. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the plans or initiatives that are in operation or are planned to grow agri-business exports to the Chinese market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45173/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that exports of Irish agri-food and related exports to China have grown in value from €167m in 2010 to €323m in 2012, an increase of 93%, with dairy products increasing from €103m in 2010 to €182m in 2012, an increase of 77%. Pigmeat exports increased from €8m in 2010 to €44m in 2012, an increase of 450%, while our seafood exports have also grown from €5.7m in 2010 to €10m in 2012, a 75% increase. Exports of hides and skins are valued at €40m in 2012.

In the first eight months of 2013, when compared with the same period in 2012, there has again been a significant increase in exports to China, rising from €213 to €281m, an increase of 32% with dairy exports showing a substantial increase from €120m to €176m, an increase of 47% in this period.

During my Trade Mission to China in April 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Agriculture and Fisheries cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was signed. This provides a framework for the strengthening of the bilateral relationship between Ireland and China in the area of agriculture and fisheries. It also provides for the sharing of expertise and the exchange of officials, designed to provide assurances to the Chinese authorities of the integrity of our food production systems, our high veterinary and food safety procedures and our technologically advanced agri and seafood sectors, thereby enhancing trade and facilitating increasing exports.

This MOU builds on an original MOU agreed in September 2006 and on the Action Plan on Mutual Cooperation between both Ministries which I signed on 28 May, 2011, and which provided for Chinese officials to undertake work placements in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and in the Marine Institute. Since the signing of the renewed MOU in April, 2012, there has been a significant increase in the number of political and trade related visits from China to Ireland. My Department hosted seven inward delegations from China in 2012, including three Vice-Ministerial visits, one inspection visit and visits by senior Chinese officials, including a joint study visit by EU and Chinese officials, as part of their cooperation agreement. Two further Chinese Vice-Ministers visited Ireland in May and June of this year.

Ireland has also secured full market access to China for salmon exports, which represents a sizeable opportunity for Irish salmon exporters, with demand for high-end seafood in China growing substantially each year. This followed intensive negotiations with the Chinese authorities by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in Beijing. Both the Marine Institute and Teagasc have also developed Memoranda of Understanding with their counterparts in China, focused on developing research between both our countries.

Because of the importance I attach to this market, I have approved the posting of an agriculture attaché from my Department to China in the New Year. The official will have specific responsibility for assisting in addressing any market access issues with China. I am particularly pleased to see the very significant increase in our exports to China and that the relationships which we have developed with China in the Agri food and related sectors have provided a very solid basis for growth in our exports to this key export destination.