Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, is leading a large delegation of Irish food industry representatives on a week-long trade mission to China and Hong Kong.
Speaking in advance of the mission, Minister Creed stressed the importance of strengthening trading relationships against the background of Brexit, and creating opportunities for the Irish agri-food sector to grow in international markets.
“The value of Irish agri-food exports to China continues to grow and this is welcome," Minister Creed said. "But the partnership between Ireland and China goes far beyond a transactional trading arrangement. This is about cooperation at multiple levels. Political visits in both directions at the very highest level, technical engagement between officials providing assurance on food safety standards, and a programme internships in my Department for Chinese veterinary officials, have all played an important part in building trust and developing key relationships.
"This mission is an opportunity to strengthen and develop existing relationships. It is imperative that we continue raising the profile of Ireland as a source of quality food and beverages, and expand the range of exports into China and Hong Kong.
"We have a particular opportunity this week to present the Irish beef sector to potential buyers and distributors, following the recent success in obtaining access to the Chinese market. But we also want to build on existing trade links in other areas including dairy, pig meat and seafood. We want to highlight the credentials of Ireland’s food and drink sector from a food safety, sustainability and authenticity perspective, in order to develop a unique selling point for Irish product.”
Ireland’s agri-food exports to China have increased roughly five-fold from around €200m in 2010 to nearly €1bn last year. China is now Ireland’s third-largest market overall. Dairy exports to China reached €667m in 2017, and pigmeat exports have increased from €37m to €100.3m between 2012 and 2017. China is also a growing market for seafood and other food and drink exports.
The itinerary includes more than 20 official engagements in four cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Political engagements include meetings with key influencers in the Chinese administration, including Minister Zhang Mao and Minister Han Changfu.
Minister Creed will be accompanied by Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia, senior representatives from Enterprise Ireland and senior executives from leading companies in the beef, pigmeat, dairy and seafood sectors.
The trade mission will participate in the leading food event, SIAL, in Shanghai, where Irish companies will have an opportunity to engage with buyers, distributors and manufacturers from China’s food sector.