The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is a constant and central component of the strategic development of the industry, as evidenced by its placement at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development. It has become even more important in recent times given the need to diversify our markets and reduce our reliance on traditional destinations such as the UK.
Against the backdrop of EU-agreed trade deals with Canada, Japan and Mexico, my Department will continue its efforts to open new markets while further deepening trade with existing markets for Irish agri-food exporters.
For example, in 2018, it facilitated the decision of the Chinese authorities to open their market to Irish beef imports by listing a number of approved Irish beef establishments. Other notable achievements during 2018 were agreements with Qatar and Kuwait which allowed for the importation of Irish beef, sheepmeat and poultry to their markets. In April 2019, we saw the opening of the Ukrainian market for Irish beef and pork. During my June trade mission to Japan, an agreement was reached in principle to allow access for Irish sheepmeat. This development followed the announcement last month of the removal of the under-30 months restriction for Irish beef exports to Japan. This means that all Irish beef is now eligible for export to this very valuable market.
Trade Missions also play an important role in this regard, building a network of Governmental, Official and Industry contacts which assist in gaining and then developing a presence in many global markets. In 2018, I led successful missions to the US, Canada, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
In 2019, an extensive trade mission itinerary is being pursued. So far this year, I have visited Turkey and China followed by an extensive mission to Japan and South Korea in June. My next scheduled trade mission is to Algeria and Egypt in November. These missions include participants from across the agri-food sector and feature extensive interactions between industry and officials with their counterparts as well as high-level political discussions.
Overall, agri-food exports to countries outside the EU have increased from around €2.7 billion to €3.6 billion in the period 2014 to 2018. This represents very rapid growth of 36% in that four-year timeframe.