My officials continue to work towards opening and enhancing access to as many markets as possible. This is a key part of our response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy.
The opening of the Chinese market for Irish beef in 2018 was the culmination of significant work over a number of years and I am pleased that seven Irish beef plants are currently approved to export beef to China. This is in addition to the five pigmeat slaughter plants that are approved to export pigmeat to China as well as three stand alone Coldstores.
Exports of Irish beef to China commenced during the summer of 2018. According to CSO trade statistics, Ireland exported approximately €2.8 million (1,400 tonnes) to China in 2018. With regard to 2019, again according to CSO trade statistics, Ireland exported approximately €1.9 million (695 tonnes) to China in the two month period January/February, which represents a very positive start to the year and I hope that this growth trend to continue throughout this year.
Last week, I led a successful trade mission to China which included three Ministerial meetings. At a meeting with Vice Minister Zhang Jiwen of the General Administration of Customs (GACC), agreement was reached on an accelerated process for inspection and registration of a further tranche of beef plants, as well as an inspection visit to progress sheepmeat access, to take place in August.
Planning for this inspection visit has already commenced and my officials will continue to liaise with the appropriate Chinese officials on market access and plant approvals in order to increase Ireland's ability to supply the market. However, the timeline for these approvals remains a matter for the Chinese authorities.
The details of the applicant plants cannot be provided as this is commercially sensitive information.