On day one of the Irish Agri-Food Trade Mission to Asia, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Michael Creed, met with Japan’s Minister for Health, Labour and Welfare Katsunobo Kato.
“This was a useful opportunity to hold high-level discussions with a senior minister here in Japan, with responsibilities in the areas of food safety, standards and certification,” said Minister Creed. “I took the opportunity to request that the 30-month age limit on our beef exports be raised and also undertook to begin the process of gaining market access for Irish sheepmeat to Japan. Minister Kato was interested in discussing Brexit and its implications for Ireland and the EU as a whole.”
The 40 Irish food companies who joined the Minister on the trade mission were briefed on the Japanese market as their first engagement. Minister Creed also met with Suntory Group, an important dairy, consumer food and pharmacy business in Japan. Suntory Group has well-established ties with Ireland including a strong focus on beverage products, with both Cooley and Kilbeggan distilleries coming under its umbrella. Suntory are also very open to opportunities to collaborate with Irish researchers; in the past, they have fostered research and development (R&D) programmes with organisations and institutions such as Teagasc, and University College Cork.
Minister Creed stressed the importance of fostering ties with important groups such as Suntory: "It's very encouraging to see such large and diverse companies expressing an interest in Ireland, particularly groups like Suntory who have already invested in research in Ireland. The meeting today has been a great chance to strengthen that relationship, and foster new opportunities for further collaborations."
Tara McCarthy, chief executive, Bord Bia said that the core focus of the trade mission is to fully immerse Bord Bia’s client companies into the potentially valuable Japanese and South Korean export markets. “Both Japan and South Korea feature strongly as priority markets with significant potential for dairy, meat and seafood. Bord Bia's work to date, in terms of understanding market dynamics, highlights the need for a tailored approach to these markets," she said.
In his final engagements of the first day of the trade mission, Minister Creed met with Japan/Ireland Parliamentary Friendship League and the Friends of Ireland business advisory group. These committees are advisory groups of high-level Japanese executives, including Yuji Yamamoto, former Minister for Agriculture and Food, with an interest in assisting Irish businesses. The purpose of these meetings was to share information on Irish and Japanese markets, particularly in the context of the EU-Japan Free Trade agreement. The business dinner with the Friends of Ireland group was also attended by Ireland's ambassador to Japan, Anne Barrington.