Creed already eyeing further expansion for Irish beef exports to China

Further expansion for Irish beef exports to the Chinese market is already on the mind of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

As it stands, Ireland has access for frozen and boneless beef products.

However, the minister is keen to expand this further – as are Ireland’s meat processors.

Speaking to AgriLand, he said: “We have raised that. In a way, it’s a little bit early to talk about achieving that. We did raise it in terms of bone-in beef and chilled beef – that process has begun.

We have working groups, contact at senior official level and indeed at a political level; so we will keep that pot boiling.

Despite announcing that three additional beef processing plants have received approval from the Chinese authorities, the minister has refused to name the new plants.

But it is thought that the three plants will come from the five potentials that were announced after the initial tranche was confirmed. Those five included: ABP Nenagh; Kepak Clonee; Kildare Chilling; Liffey Meats; and Dawn Meats, Charleville, Co. Cork.

The Chinese will, in due course, reveal the identity of the new plants. What we would hope is that any plant that expresses an interest will meet the specifications from a Chinese point of view.

“There is an approval process that has been worked out and the plants that express an interest will know exactly what they have to do,” Minister Creed said.

‘We have substantial credits achieved’

Continuing, the minister detailed that over the last few days he has had engagement at a high political level – meeting officials from the ministry for agriculture, ministry for market regulation and the ministry responsible for customs control.

Significant progress has been achieved through years of hard work at various levels, he added.

We have substantial credits achieved; they trust us, they know what we are about and they know our commitment to quality. I think our standing is quite high.

“In a market place where the value has gone from €200 million to nearly €1 billion in a decade or less, that is evidence in itself that we are considered to be trustworthy producers of a quality product where price is right, competitive and acquitted to high standards.

“With beef, we are in a position now to drive the value further for the Irish agri-food industry,” he said.

Promotion of grass-fed beef

During this week’s trade mission to China, comparisons have been drawn between grass-fed and grain-fed beef.

On this topic, Minister Creed stated: “The whole thrust of our promotion by the industry and indeed by Bord Bia has been on grass-fed and the sustainability credentials that we have on that basis.

“In terms of broad consumer awareness in China of Irish beef, I’m not sure we will ever conquer China in that sense.

“What we are focusing on now is the business-to-business relationships and those businesses are conscious of the product that we are bringing to market and its unique selling points – which is the sustainability and the grass-based system.

On that basis, we are going to sell a lot of beef here.

Concluding, he said: “We have just completed ‘Marketplace’ in the RDS with Bord Bia. There were, I think, 70 Chinese buyers at that; so there is a real awareness across the entire offering – dairy, beef, pork, seafood, the drinks industry etc with tremendous engagement with all of them.

“At the business level, they are very aware of us and we are courting them intensively.”