Irish milk processors will know within the next 24 hours whether or not they will be able to continue exporting dairy products to China. This follows on from a recent inspection by representatives from the Chinese government which entailed visits to a number of processing operations throughout Ireland.

A dairy trade source told Agriland that the official deputation from China visited Ireland in March. Tomorrow, May 1, will see the introduction of new food safety regulations in China and the inspection visits had been organised to assess Ireland’s compliance with the new standards. The Chinese delegation had assessed all aspects of dairy processing in Ireland but had placed a key focus on Ireland’s infant formula manufacturing capabilities. This will come as no surprise, given the recent health scares in China linked to infant formula imports

“Prior to the visits taking place a deputation from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Irish dairy trade visited China. The initial response from the Chinese government to the inspections has been received by the Department of Agriculture. My understanding is that the Department has replied officially to this communication, which leaves the scene set for the final and official response from the Chinese authorities on this crucial matter, which should be received by Dublin within the next 24 hours.

“As part of this communication, the Chinese authorities will list those Irish milk processors that will be granted future access to that market. So to say that local processors are holding their breath is an understatement,” the source said.

The news of the inspections follows on directly from the confirmation that China has temporarily banned cheese imports from the UK.

Agriland has been told that dairy inspectors from China have visited 10 countries over recent weeks. The list includes New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Ireland. A number of Ireland’s leading dairy processors are currently exporting infant milk formula to China. The market has been identified as one of the most lucrative, from an Irish milk processing perspective.