China approves imports from three Irish beef processors - Irish broadcaster

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Speaking during a meeting of European Union agriculture ministers in Luxembourg, Mr Creed said China represented "an enormous potential market".

China banned beef from the European Union and U.S. during the BSE crisis in 2000 - that ban was officially lifted three years ago but trade still hasn't resumed - until now.

China is now fully open and operational for Irish beef, and the export of frozen boneless beef to the largest single food market in the world can begin.

"I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete in the Chinese market".

He said: "The opening of this key market presents an excellent opportunity for the Irish beef sector, from farmers through to processors [.] Opening and developing new markets is also a key part of our response to the uncertainties arising from Brexit".

China is Ireland's third largest market, and previous year our agri-food exports there were worth almost €1 billion.

According to Bord Bia, China officially imported more than 700,000 tonnes of beef in 2017 - a figure expected to double by 2020.

"I understand that the Chinese authorities will list a number of our beef establishments within the next few days", said Mr Creed.

Although annual per capita beef consumption in China is now 4-6kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland.

However, despite increases in domestic beef production in China, consumer demand for premium imported beef is forecast to rise significantly - driven by factors like increasing urbanisation and higher disposable income.

"Ireland's agri-food industry already enjoys a strong trade relationship with China".

Bord Bia has welcomed the announcement.

"The opening of Irish beef access is testimony to our industry's strength, reputation and proven track record in the Chinese market", she said.

He is due to lead a trade mission to China in May to further build on relations and push for the approval of five more beef plants, which have applied for access but have not yet been approved.

He added that the more markets Ireland could access, the bigger the opportunities of delivering better margins for the primary producer.

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