Despite welcoming the reopening of the Chinese market to Irish beef, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack has warned that the job is only “half done”.

The development and growth of food exports to China must be a priority, however the ICMSA president questioned whether this “huge opportunity” would translate back into a return for farmers.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced the resumption of Irish beef exports to China under the same conditions as before the 2020 suspension today (Thursday, January 5).

McCormack said China’s decision to suspend shipments of Irish beef following an isolated case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in May 2020 has always been “disappointing”.

Beef prices

He criticised that “far too often” a new market has been announced or reopened without any underlying effect or message for the people producing the food.

“If the reopening of the Chinese market to Irish beef doesn’t mean an increase in cents/kg for the Irish farmers producing the Irish beef, then it’s actually meaningless – it just becomes an empty marketing exercise.

“Unless the farmers get a better price for their beef to a degree that makes it feasible to produce that beef, this whole project will remain just a positive PR (public relations) spin as opposed to meaningful development,” McCormack said.

Ensuring higher prices is no less the business of the government where the negotiations with the Chinese officials were successfully carried out, he added.

Chinese market

The decision to resume exports to China is a great vote of confidence in the Irish beef sector and Ireland’s committed suckler and beef farmers who produce a world-class product, Minister McConalogue said.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon, who has responsibility for market development, believes Ireland can quickly regain momentum and market share in China.

While Ireland could be “supremely confident” that the standards of Irish products would ensure a receptive and engaged market, the job is only half done, the ICMSA president said.