The suspension of beef exports from Brazil to China presents both significant opportunities and threats to Irish beef – with the current suspension of beef from Ireland into the market a “lost opportunity” for the country, the government has been told.

In a statement issued late yesterday evening (Wednesday, September 8), Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has highlighted that the suspension presents an “opportunity for a renewed diplomatic offensive” to try and resume the export of Irish beef to China.

MII noted that, as the main beef supplier to China, Brazil takes up 40% of total imports and has shipped 500,000t of beef to the Chinese market in the first seven months of this year.

A spokesperson for MII said:

“Any prolonged absence of Brazil from the Chinese market creates opportunity and we need the Irish government to push again for the reopening of the market for Irish beef.”

However, the meat processor representative body pointed to the threat of diverted Brazilian beef supplies being allowed to “flood the EU market”.

Accounting for close to 40% of EU beef imports and shipping close to 100,000t of beef to the EU on an annual basis, Brazil is also the main non-EU supplier of beef into Europe, MII warned.

As such, the Ibec industry body says:

“The European Commission should deploy safeguard measures if there is an escalation of beef volumes from Brazil entering the EU market, otherwise, our EU beef market would be severely undermined.”

Turning to the situation as it stands from an Irish perspective, MII outlined that the suspension on Irish beef exports to China – now in place for some 15 months – is a “major loss to the entire beef sector in Ireland, just as sales to this exciting new market were set to ramp up”.

Stressing the “massive” efforts that went into opening the market and securing plant approvals, the industry group warned:

“The work on establishing our presence in the market and building relationships with importers has been seriously undermined by our ongoing absence from the market.”

As China beef imports continue to grow, so too does our lost opportunity, as we remain excluded from the market, MII concluded.