Thursday, 6 December 2018

Ceisteanna (20)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

20. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the progress made by the agrifood sector here in developing a market for Irish beef in China. [51192/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

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 earlier this year was the culmination of significant work, over a number of years, and I am delighted that 6 Irish beef plants are currently approved to export beef to China.

My officials are currently working towards progressing applications for additional beef plants approvals, in order to increase Ireland's ability to supply the market, and this was the subject of a bilateral technical meeting at Senior Officials level in Beijing at the start of November.

Total Irish agri-food trade exports to China were €974 million in 2017. China is now our third largest market overall for agri-food exports. Dairy exports reached €667 million and pigmeat exports were over €100 million in 2017. These were the two largest categories of food exported to China, and for both of these commodities China was Ireland's second largest destination market according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) trade data. China is also a growing market for seafood and other food and drink exports.

Last month, my colleague, Minister of State Andrew Doyle TD, had a series of political and promotional engagements at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai and at the Seafood Expo in Qingdao. This follows the trade mission I led to China in May, and an inward visit by the Chinese Minister for Agriculture in October, underlining our commitment to progressing key political and trade relationships with China.

By gaining access to China, we have opened a very significant beef market for Irish beef companies. It is up to the beef companies to avail of this opportunity. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) by the end of August 2018, Irish beef exports to China were 260 tonnes or €432,000. I am reasonably pleased with this level of exports given that the trade only commenced during the Summer. It indicates that Irish beef companies are beginning to gain a foothold in the Chinese market.

On average Chinese beef consumption is now 4kg per person per year. While that may be considered low when compared to average Irish consumption of 19kg of beef per capita per year, it underlines the potential for further growth in consumer demand for beef, driven by increasing urbanisation and higher disposable incomes. Total beef imports to China were around 600,000 tonnes in 2016. That is more than Ireland’s total beef exports to all markets last year. I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market and I look forward to the opportunities that this access will bring.