Ireland gained access to the Chinese beef market in April 2018 when three beef plants were approved to export to China. Eighteen months later, 21 beef plants are now approved. The latest CSO trade data for the first nine months of 2019 shows that Ireland exported over 5,000 tonnes of beef to China, some four times the entire volume exported in 2018. This represents a very encouraging start to our beef trade.
The impact of African Swine Fever (ASF) has created a significant protein deficit in China, which has increased demand and prices for all meats in that market in the short term.
However, my main focus for Irish beef in China is on securing a high-value position for Irish beef that can be maintained in the longer term. Bord Bia's strategy is to differentiate Irish beef by growing recognition of, and preference for, grass-based, Quality Assured Irish beef in China. These brand building efforts are supported by online and offline promotions targeting trade, chefs and consumers. Equally important is a focus on building durable relationships and developing opportunities for a diverse range of beef cuts in foodservice, retail and e-commerce channels at regional level in China.
The enthusiasm and interest of Chinese consumers, food companies, leading chefs and food ‘key opinion leaders’ in the taste and quality of Irish beef was very evident during my recent trade visit to Shanghai and Beijing.
My Department's role is to open, enhance and maintain meat markets for industry. It is up to industry - with the support of my Department and Bord Bia - to exploit the opportunities created. The actual level of exports to any particular market in any period will depend on a range of factors, such as global supply and demand dynamics, currency fluctuations, consumer purchasing power and tastes.