The statistics relating to China’s dairy sector make for very interesting reading. For the record they are as follows: annual consumption – 40 million tonnes; annual production 38 million tonnes; and, annual imports – 10 million tonnes.

But these figures do not add up, I hear you say. They do, given that 20% of the milk produced in that country (8 million tonnes) is deemed not to be suitable for human consumption. And therein lies the opportunity for Ireland moving forward.

I have just spent the last week in China, visiting dairy processing operations the length and breadth of the country as part of the Bord Bía trade mission. To a man each of the company executives I spoke to confirmed that Chinese consumers have major concerns regarding the quality of the milk produced in China.

The most obvious example of this can be seen within the lucrative infant milk formula market. Product sourced from Ireland, for example, will sell for up to four times more than comparable milk powders made from locally-sourced raw materials. The reality is that Chinese parents’ faith is in western companies brand reputations when it comes to sourcing dairy products.

Further, the good news is that the food traceability measures now operating in Ireland and the drive behind Origin Green will provide Chinese consumers with the reassurances they need when it comes to Irish food exports.

China is home to 1.3 billion people. Even the briefest of visits to places like Beijing and Shanghai will confirm the growing wealth of the middle classes in these cities. At the present time, the ‘in thing’ to do in all China’s major centres of population is to go out for the evening and enjoy a steak dinner.

Wouldn’t it be great if even a small fraction of that meat could come from Ireland?