China represents a significant opportunity for Irish food exports, particularly in the wake of an increase in the price of pigmeat – but awareness must be built on Ireland and its produce, according to CEO of Bord Bia Tara McCarthy.

The CEO was speaking to AgriLand at the Department of Agriculture’s Open Policy Debate on Ireland’s Agri-Food Strategy to 2030, held in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, yesterday, Wednesday, October 16.

Commenting on the latest updates on Irish inroads into the Chinese market, McCarthy highlighted the complexity and size of the country, but also the opportunity it represents in a variety of food categories, including meat and dairy.

“What we’re doing is investing significantly in the data in China,” she explained.

“Because it’s an enormous market; and it’s not a case of Ireland taking on China; it’s actually Ireland focusing on regions within China and the tier one cities even within China because it’s just such a vast and complex country.

But the feedback within that dynamic market is it’s undergoing huge change. We all know what’s happening to their pigmeat industry where it’s effectively been decimated.

“Figures are a little bit difficult to be accurate about but what we do see is that the price of global pigmeat is rising as a result.

“And I guess where the big conversation is now happening is, with that pigmeat price increase, will that lead to an evolution on protein consumption in general?

“And what I mean by that is will they move away from pork into beef faster than was expected? Will they move to chicken; will they move to other proteins?

That’s where the opportunity from an Ireland perspective will be.

However, McCarthy cautioned: “The big battle we have with all of that macro-data is how do we build awareness of Ireland?

“We are a very small player in this very, very large picture and what we’re now looking to do is: build awareness; build our credibility; create our proof points so that we understand what that Chinese market is looking for and then we are positioned to get that.

“Our sales and our figures to China are increasing continuously – but from a very small base,” the CEO said.