Macra na Feirme has said that it is the priority for the Government to “ensure that farmers reap the benefits” of the approval of 14 Irish beef plants for export to China.

John Keane, the chairperson of Macra’s Agricultural Affairs Committee, was speaking after a visit to the Asian country by Minister Michael Creed, which has been taking place this week.

Keane welcomed the projected increase in beef exports from Ireland to China, saying: “Farmers deserve better margins and we are hopeful this will provide that much needed increase.”

Bord Bia is forecasting that Irish beef exports to China are expected to grow to €120 million in the next year. It is also expected that the country’s demand for beef will be some 2.2 million tonnes by 2025, compared to 700,000t in 2017.

Macra president Thomas Duffy argued that: “Expanding access for Irish beef products in new markets is long overdue and necessary to ensure the sustainability of the Irish beef sector for future generations. Moving forward with the Beef Market Taskforce is another important step in addressing the current state of the Irish beef sector.

“Farmers need to see the returns from the opening of new markets and the best way to achieve this is by reconvening the beef taskforce so that the various aspects of the beef sector agreement can be progressed and implemented,” Duffy added.

At the end of last month, it was confirmed by the Chinese authorities that 14 Irish beef plants – as well as two coldstores – had been given approval to export to that market.

The Chinese decision brings to 21 the number of Irish beef plants that are approved to send beef to China.

The approval of the plants followed on from an inspection visit from Chinese officials at the end of August and beginning of September.