The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s role in achieving access to the Chinese market for Irish beef was lauded at an awards ceremony in Dublin over the weekend.

The Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Awards are held each year to publicly recognise excellence and innovation across the civil service.

The 2018 awards were presented at a ceremony in the Dublin Castle on Friday, November 23.

The Department of Agriculture won an award for ‘Excellence in Collaboration’ in achieving access to the Chinese Market for Irish beef.

This was a long-term project involving sustained collaboration across a number of divisions in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in particular the Embassy in Beijing, as well as the Bord Bia teams in Dublin and Shanghai.

The team cooperated with the Chinese Embassy in Dublin to organise important inward visits, generously hosted by Irish farm families, which were invaluable in building key relationships; and worked closely with the Irish meat industry to understand and meet Chinese requirements, according to the department.

The lasting benefit of the project was market access for beef to China which was announced on April 16, 2018, when Ireland became the first Western European beef exporter to secure access.

Since the initial announcement six beef plants are now approved to export beef to China and export of product commenced in June 2018.

Commenting on the accolade, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said: “The opening of the Chinese beef market presents an exciting opportunity for the entire Irish beef sector, from farmers right through to processors.”

A model for internal collaboration, cross-department and agency collaboration, a “close working relationship with industry stakeholders and the Government and administration of an export destination has been developed, which can serve as a template for further market access efforts”, according to the department.

Minister Creed congratulated the award winners and said: “A key feature was working closely with Team Ireland in China to ensure every opportunity to further our access goal was used, this included promotional work by Bord Bia and hosting important inward visits.”

Secretary general of the department Brendan Gleeson said: “These awards are a true recognition of the excellence of the civil service.

“In the current climate with an increased focus on international markets and global trade and partnerships, the Chinese beef access model provides a template for collaboration, relationship building and harnessing a number of strands over a sustained period to achieve a goal.”