Ireland to lead European Union beef into key Chinese market

Three beef factories have been approved by the Chinese authorities and are the first European beef processors to gain access to that country

The Larry Goodman-owned ABP plant in Clones in County Monaghan, Slaney Meats based in County Wexford, and Donegal Meat Processors are the factories that have been given full approval by the Chinese authorities to export frozen boneless beef products from today (16 April), Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed announced, according to the television news channel RTE.

Our exports to China were worth nearly a billion Euro past year - even with the beef ban in place.

In January, China said it would lift its ban on British beef but farmers may have to wait years before receiving regulatory approval from Beijing; it took three years from lifting the ban on Irish beef for China to approve imports.

It's understood at least three beef factories here have been fully approved by the Chinese authorities and are the first European beef processors to gain access there.

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"China is allowing more beef imports and importing countries", the bank said, adding that this was "intensifying competition" in the world market.

Now that threat has receded, Chinese consumers are keen to buy more beef and with the high cost of breeding cattle in China leading to insufficient domestic supply, the government has reconsidered its bans.

Kildare Chilling has been listed as a potential beef exporter to China as part of this morning's agreement that the Chinese market has been opened to Irish beef.

Trade growth between Ireland and China clocked up a bigger percentage growth than with any other country previous year, at 37 per cent.

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China first banned exports of beef from Europe in 2001 in response to the outbreak of mad cow disease and the ban also covered U.S. beef after the disease appeared in the United States in 2003.

The Minister concluded: "I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market".

Average Chinese beef consumption per capita is 4kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland, so there is potential for expansion. "I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind", he said.

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