China is a hugely valuable market, already in our top three export destinations for Irish pork and dairy, and with a strong reputation in terms of our seafood offering. As part of my 2019 Trade Mission schedule, I led a week-long extensive Government agri-food trade mission to China in May of this year.
While there I was delighted to see at first hand the real enthusiasm of Chinese trade buyers and consumers for Irish beef, dairy and pigmeat, and the innovative ways in which these quality products can be adapted to suit Chinese cuisines and consumer tastes. There is real evidence that Irish companies are further gaining an even stronger foothold in the Chinese market, from which they can grow and develop further.
The Chinese market also represents a significant opportunity for the Irish sheep sector, and during my meeting with Vice Minister Zhang Jiwen of the General Administration of Customs (GACC), I took the opportunity to discuss the process for sheepmeat. During the meeting we obtained an agreement for an inspection visit to progress sheepmeat access, and this visit took place in August. The Vice Minister also agreed an accelerated process for inspection and registration of a further tranche of beef plants.
Fifteen Irish agri-food companies participated in the trade mission. Some of these were pigmeat and beef companies exhibiting at Sial Shanghai food fair, while others were dairy company representatives from Irish companies based in China. However, due to commercial sensitivities, it would not be appropriate to name these companies. All expenses, including travel and hotel costs, were covered directly by the companies in question.