A Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) headed delegation will visit China next week to attend the World Meat Secretariat’s World Meat Congress. The visiting Group will include Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ian Marshall and representatives from other red meat stakeholder groups in Northern Ireland.

Commission Chief Executive Ian Steven, who will head up the group, told Agriland that the visit represents a tremendous opportunity for representatives from Northern Ireland’s livestock sector to forge stronger business links with their counterparts in China.

“This is the first time that a visit of this nature has been organised by the Commission,” he added.

“Given the potential for growth in beef consumption within China, the opportunity to see at first-hand how that market is managed is one which the Board of the Commission felt we should avail of at this time.

“Business in China, more than within any other international market, is carried out on the strength of strong inter-personal relationships. This is why it is so important for representatives from Northern Ireland to make the effort and meet with their counterparts within China’s food and retail sectors on their home patch.”

Ian went on to confirm that next week’s itinerary will include visits to a number of commercial organisations, operating within China’s redmeat sectors.

“We will also take in the first day of a major international meat exhibition in Beijing, which follows on directly from the Congress,” he further explained.

“Northern Ireland’s beef and lamb processing  sector does not have direct access to mainland China’s at the present time, although we do supply Hong Kong and other associated markets in that region. It may take up to four years before full approval can be secured for local beef processers to supply China. This will entail a long and complicated administrative process and inspection visits to Northern Ireland by veterinarians representing the Chinese government. But is an effort worth making.

“Beef consumption is on the rise throughout South East Asia, as are income levels. Access to the Chinese markets also holds out the hope of securing higher returns for the fifth quarter, which includes edible offal and hides.

“The Commission and the meat industry are fully aware of the potential benefits that can be passed on to farmers through our accessing of the Chinese market. And, in many ways, this process starts with next week’s visit to Beijing.”