Bord Bia has welcomed the signing of formal protocols which have advanced the case for the export of sheepmeat and breeding pigs to China, stating that it is ready to “hit the ground running” in the market.

This morning it was confirmed that Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has signed and exchanged formal protocols with Minister Ni of the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) that are set to “pave the way” for the export of sheepmeat and breeding pigs from Ireland to China.

Welcoming the announcement, Bord Bia’s chief executive Tara McCarthy said: “Bord Bia has been preparing for market access for Irish sheepmeat over a number of years and are very pleased with today’s announcement.

“We have a clear strategy developed for Irish sheepmeat in China and are ready to hit the ground running, leveraging strategic partnerships with key customers.

“Our focus will be on raising awareness of Irish sheepmeat through foodservice focused events, targeting influential chefs and trade customers.

“While imports are currently dominated by two main competitors, we are confident that Irish sheepmeat can carve out a niche and premium market in China,” McCarthy said.

Bord Bia noted that China imported some 365,000t of sheepmeat in 2020, valued at over $1.74 billion.

Currently, imports account for 8% of total sheepmeat consumption in China. The two largest suppliers, New Zealand and Australia, represent 97% of all imports in volume terms, with New Zealand taking 55% and Australia accounting for 42%.

Bord Bia China Manager, Conor O’Sullivan also commented, adding: “The consistent growth in Chinese import demand represents a positive platform for Irish sheepmeat as it prepares to enter the market.

“The premiumisation of China’s retail and foodservice sectors has transformed China from a market for cheap cuts to one with opportunity for every cut of sheepmeat.”

Sheepmeat accounts for 6% of Chinese meat consumption at 3.8kg/person/annum.

While 65% of sheepmeat consumption is through foodservice – typically enjoyed in hotpots and stews, or barbecued – at home consumption is rising as consumers become more familiar with how to cook lamb.

Out-of-home consumption is significantly higher in urban areas with growing affluent populations, where imported meat is more likely to be consumed.

Bord Bia said that, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, it will be hosting a series of lamb focused meetings with key trade buyers and importers in November.

Bord Bia’s strategy for sheepmeat in China will be focused on restaurant and foodservice business, with events to include trade seminars and trade shows, chef demonstrations, and a chef’s master series.

Consumer promotions will be focused on e-commerce via promotions and partnerships with websites such as, Tmall, and Pinduoduo.