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After an intensive week of discussions, the Minister for Agriculture Food & the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. today completed his week-long trade mission to China. The Minister led a delegation which included representatives of 51 Irish agri food companies seeking to develop new business opportunities in the Chinese market, as well as government agencies such as Teagasc, BIM, the Marine Institute, the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing.

Speaking as the trade mission came to a close, Minister Coveney said that its purpose had been to develop the kind of close political, official and commercial ties that would increase the profile of Ireland as a major producer of high quality food and as a centre of excellence in terms of food safety, sustainable production systems, animal breeding and genetics.

The Minister said that “This trade mission was an excellent example of practical collaborative action between Government and industry, developing international business opportunities on the basis of a strong reputation for quality, sustainability and safety. This reputation is built on critically important public health and research infrastructure which we have established in the agri food sector Ireland over many years. This kind of engagement is an important investment in the future development of the Irish agri food industry”.

The Minister held very constructive meetings with his counterparts in the Ministry for Agriculture, and the critically important Quarantine Ministry, both of whom had agreed to visit Ireland in May and June. Significant progress had been made during the week on a number of fronts, including:

· the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding increasing co-operation between his Department and the Ministry for the Quarantine Service, which plays a critically important role in market access for food and fisheries products in China;

the announcement of a US$50 million project involving an Irish company in a joint venture to partner China in establishing their national equine facility.

the signing of a number of commercial contracts by Irish businesses, including one by Connolly’s Redmills from Kilkenny, which is the first foreign horse feed manufacturer to gain market access to China.;

the signing of agreements between BIM and eight Irish seafood companies a number of Chinese seafood buyers to supply this lucrative market with commercial samples of boarfish with a view to securing orders in the near future;

the creation of an Ireland-China Food Hub, a shared office facility for Irish food and drink exporters, which will be managed by Bord Bia and which will target the Chinese market and provide a practical solution for Irish companies seeking to enter the market;

the establishment of a Joint Working Group on market access for Irish beef and sheepmeat to the Chinese market involving the Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Service (AQSIQ) and his Department;

In relation to market access for beef and sheepmeat, Minister Coveney said that the establishment of the working group was a major step forward, and another important technical step on the road to opening the Chinese market to Irish beef. He also said that he was very pleased that Vice Minister Wei from the Ministry for the Quarantine Service will visit Ireland from 13-16 June when, it was agreed, beef market access will be discussed further. The Minister expressed satisfaction at the priority and engagement of the Chinese authorities on this important issue for Ireland, which has been under negotiation for some time.