Increasing international market access for agri-food exports is an important element of Food Wise 2025, the strategic framework for developing the sector. The strategy recognises that market entry and penetration is essential to ensure a fair return for primary producers of all meat species. In April 2017, I launched a seven-point action plan on market development. This plan is being activated through a series of actions, which included the allocation of more staff resources within my Department to work specifically on market access matters. This allocation of resources and the progress on the other actions are reviewed on an ongoing basis by my Department's High Level Market Access Committee.
Last year, I expanded my Department's cohort of Agricultural Attachés to include new posts in Tokyo and Mexico City and a new post in Seoul will be operational later this year. The attaché role encompasses trade development and cultivating contacts at official/political level which are crucial to our efforts to gain new market access and increase overall trade levels with host countries.
My Department continues to pursue the opening of new markets for pigmeat and the enhancement of existing ones in consultation with stakeholders. Currently, Irish pigmeat can be exported to a broad range of international markets including, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and the USA. However, gaining access to new markets is generally the culmination of a lengthy process.
In May, I was pleased to announce the opening of the Mexican market for Irish pigmeat. With a population of more than 120 million, the Mexican market represents a substantial opportunity for Irish pigmeat exports. According to Bord Bia, a growing import demand, which sees the importation of some 1 million tonnes of pigmeat annually, is driven by a growing middle class and greater urbanisation. Imports currently account for 38% of total pigmeat consumption, with further growth anticipated.
In 2019, approximately one-third of Irish pigmeat exports in value terms went to international markets. The short-term outlook for the pigmeat market will be influenced by global supply and demand dynamics as well as by potential further COVID-19 disruption to supply chains and international competition. My Department will continue to prioritise market access both through maintaining existing markets and pursuing access to new ones.