The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue is expected to travel to China later this year in an effort to push for the resumption of Irish beef exports to the country.

There has been a ban on Irish beef imports in China since May 2020, following an atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case in a dead cow in Co. Tipperary.

Ireland has since been granted negligible risk status for BSE by the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE).

Despite what the minister described as huge “political will”, Irish beef exports to China have still not been allowed to resume.

Criticism of delay in Irish beef exports to China

The feeling amongst many in the farming community is that Ireland lacks the political might to ensure exports resume, as Brazil more recently reported two cases of atypical BSE and while its exports to China were temporarily halted, they resumed again a short time later for beef certified before the suspension.

In an interview with Agriland, Minister McConalogue said: “There is massive political will, massive political effort going into reopening it.

“You saw the work that went into reopening China in the first place, that took a lot of time and a lot of work then went into developing the market,” the minister added.

“It is definitely a real impediment that we haven’t had access and hasn’t been reopened yet, but it’s not for the lack of work and effort at political level, either from myself as minister, or working across government and indeed with the Taoiseach [Micheál Martin] as well.

“We have very strong engagement with the Chinese government, with the Chinese authorities. My department [is] engaging with them on an ongoing basis as well and we are leaving no stone unturned to get back in,” he added.

Chinese decision

The minister said that he could not give a timeline on when beef exports to China will resume as it is not in the gift of Ireland to determine this, the decision remains with the Chinese authorities.

“I hope it happens tomorrow. I want it to happen tomorrow. We’re making every effort to make it happen and will continue to do that because we know the importance of it, particularly as an emerging market as well,” the minister stated.

Assistant secretary general at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Sinéad McPhillips told Agriland in an interview that she wanted to pay tribute to the work that the Irish embassy in Beijing is doing in relation to trying to resume Irish beef imports in China.

“There has been very significant travel restrictions ongoing into China and they remain in place. We hope that the [agriculture] minister will be able to visit China later this year. Certainly, as soon as that is possible, that will happen,” she said.

“The embassy and our ambassaor, Ann Derwin, our attache on the ground, Mary McMahon are there having those person-to-person meetings with the Chinese authorities, pressing this case, making the right connections.

“This is a matter for the Chinese authorities, but that technical engagement… the department itself [is] having good ongoing technical video conferences with the relevant authorities. Certainly the relationships are there and as the minister said, the political and technical effort is going into it.”