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Ireland hoping its beef will be first from Europe exported to China

By Bo Leung in London | | Updated: 2018-01-12 02:19

Ireland could become the first European country to export beef to China once regulators give their approval.

Bord Bia, the Irish food board, said the process to secure market access to China is in the "advanced stages" and "progressing very well".

"We're moving in the right direction, at the right pace," said Michael Walsh, communications and corporate affairs manager at Bord Bia. "We're ahead of everyone, no other EU country is at the stage we are at."

He said the food board is "optimistic" but added that it is now down to the Chinese authorities to give the green light.

A spokesperson for Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said: "Irish and Chinese officials are continuing negotiations in relation to Irish beef access to China. While we are satisfied that we are making good progress, a number of issues remain for discussion between the two competent authorities."

In April last year, Ireland and China signed a formal protocol related to beef exports to the world's second-largest economy, paving the way forward. The Irish government called the move a major milestone in the process.

In order to complete the process, a veterinary health certificate recognized by the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) must be finalized, and there must be inspection visits by the Chinese Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) to approve individual processing plants for export.

Beijing lifted restrictions related to BSE, so-called "mad cow" disease, on Irish beef in 2015.

With the middle-income population in China on the rise, high-quality cuts are in demand. China's appetite for beef increased almost six-fold between 1990 and 2015 and is forecast to rise further.

Irish agri-food exports to China have increased from about 240 million euros ($256.7 million) in 2012 to 780 million euros in 2016.

This made China the third-largest market for Ireland's agri-food sector in 2016, in value terms, after Britain and the United States.

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