The outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in China has resulted in a large percentage of the Chinese sow herd being culled and an increased demand for meat products in the country.

The Beef Plan Movement has sent an open letter to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, questioning why Ireland is not exporting greater volumes of beef to China.

The Beef Plan’s Hugh Doyle – who sent the letter – outlined that the movement has “serious concerns” regarding the direction and future facing the Irish beef industry.

According to the Beef Plan: “Due to swine flu [African swine fever] in China and its spread to Cambodia, Vietnam and Korea, the price of pork in China has doubled to €3.60/kg.”

Doyle said in the letter that “China is culling 40,000 sows daily” which he believes “is the equivalent of the Irish herd every four days”.

The letter outlined that ASF is creating “a massive shortfall in animal protein” which Doyle estimates to be 19 million tonnes in China alone by the end of 2019.

Continuing, the letter said that “China is travelling the world looking for beef”.

The tonnages of Irish beef being exported to China is currently small and insignificant.

“The Irish beef export contract with China was signed over two years ago and, as with the US contract”, the Beef Plan believes “very little has been exported since”.

Why are we [Ireland] not exporting much bigger volumes to China, a country where there is a clear deficit and obvious demand?

Continuing, the Beef Plan said it “makes no sense” that China “is so slow” at granting export licences for the remaining factories.

A sacrificial lamb

Continuing, the letter said that the expansion of the dairy industry in Ireland is resulting in the Irish beef industry “being used like a sacrificial lamb”.

Concluding, the letter read: “The beef industry is the backbone of rural Ireland and at present we are being thrown to the wolves.”