Restoring access for Irish beef exports to the key Chinese market remains a “top priority” for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), a seminar has heard.

The Bord Bia meat marketing seminar was told today (January 14) that developing and diversifying markets is identified as a goal of Food Vision 2030.

Sinead McPhillips, DAFM assistant secretary, said that work to secure international markets “can be detailed, painstaking and, at times, frustrating”.

“The department has invested considerable resources, particularly since the Brexit vote in 2016, in achieving, maintaining and improving access to new international markets, particularly for meat exports.

“But we must recognise that the importing country sets the requirements, the pace of negotiations and ultimately makes the decisions in terms of granting market access,” McPhillips outlined.

The seminar heard that the process has been frustrated by travel disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however this has been offset somewhat by the use virtual trade events.

McPhillips said that “securing market access is a process that can take several years”.

This is begun with a desktop risk assessment, followed by an on-site inspection and concluded with negotiations around certification and protocols.

Some countries require parliamentary approval as part of the process.

Beef Exports

The seminar was given an outline on the progress made by DAFM and Bord Bia in “priority markets” for Irish beef, sheep, pigmeat and poultry exports.

Sinead McPhillips said that the resumption of Irish beef exports to China remains a “top priority” for DAFM.

China suspended the trade in May 2020 following an atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case.

Ireland has since been granted negligible risk status for BSE by the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE).

McPhillips explained that there is ongoing contact with Chinese officials on the matter:

“Intensive efforts to reopen the market have been made at official, technical, diplomatic and political channels. But it must be recognised that the timing of the decision to resume trade remains a matter for the Chinese authorities.”

The DAFM official noted that there has been very “constructive engagement” with China in relation to dairy products and sheepmeat.

The webinar heard that DAFM is working with US authorities to finalise certification for Irish sheepmeat exports.

McPhillips said that Japan had been “a real success story in terms of market access”.

Last year, the department reached agreement with Japanese authorities on the certification of minced beef and beef burgers; these products are now eligible for export to Japan.

Source: DAFM

DAFM is currently seeking to get Irish beef and poultry meat approved in South Korea, where Irish pigmeat has been exported to for many years.

The application to export beef to Thailand is at inspection stage, with pigmeat in the initial stages of the process.

DAFM is currently planning an inspection visit with Vietnam in its bid to secure beef exports there.

The logistics around an inspection mission by officials from Malaysia are also being discussed with a view to get access for Irish pigmeat and poultry to that market.

Meanwhile, the seminar heard that DAFM trade missions are being planned this year to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, USA, Mexico and Asia.