Ireland to lead EU beef into key Chinese market


China - which has threatened tariffs on US beef imports, amid growing Beijing-Washington tensions – has opened itself up to purchases from the European Union, is poised to approve supplies from three Irish plants.

 Announcing the clearance, Irish Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said: "I understand that the Chinese authorities will list a number of our beef establishments within the next few days.

“In addition to this first tranche of approvals, I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind,” he added.

‘Unable to fulfil rising consumption’

The move stands to make Ireland the first European Union country to gain access to a Chinese beef market which is growing far faster than the country’s own production.

The US Department of Agriculture last week, raising by 175,000 tonnes to a record 1.20m tonnes its forecast for Chinese beef imports in 2018, said that “robust demand in China and Hong Kong will continue to grow as stagnant domestic production is unable to fulfil rising consumption”.

China in 2016 became the world’s second-ranked beef importer, with volumes of 812,000 tonnes, and purchases of 1.20m tonnes would enhance its lead over third-placed Japan, expected to purchase 832,000 tonnes of beef this year.

The US is the top beef importer, with volumes forecast this year by the USDA at 1.38m tonnes, although unlike China, it exports nearly as much as it buys in.

‘Allowing more imports’

Ireland represents the latest of a series of beef origins to which China has opened its doors.

China has already granted access for chilled beef from Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the US, from where imports of the meat are now threatened with tit-for-tat tariffs.

Other origins gaining access including Belarus, which has gained approval for frozen beef.

China has also signed protocols with France and the UK, which, according to Rabobank, “will likely begin shipments in the coming months.

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

Brexit factor

For Ireland, the deal is also particularly important given the threat to trade with major trade partner the UK presented by Brexit.

“Opening and developing new markets is also a key part of our response to the uncertainties arising from Brexit,” Mr Creed said.


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