Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, and Minister of State, Martin Heydon TD, today announced the resumption of Irish beef exports to China.
Beef shipments to China were suspended following the confirmation in May 2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of an isolated case of atypical BSE. This isolated case was detected by the Department’s surveillance programme, did not enter the food chain and posed no risk to human health. Atypical BSE occurs naturally and sporadically in all cattle populations at a very low rate and is not considered a public health risk.
Nevertheless, beef exports were immediately suspended as a precautionary measure in line with the bilateral protocol on the trade agreed with the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC).
Minister McConalogue stated:
“Negotiating the resumption of beef access has been a top priority for my Department over the last two and a half years. Together with colleagues in the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing, my officials have been in ongoing contact with the Chinese authorities since the start of the suspension. They provided the necessary technical information for evaluation by Chinese experts. Earlier this year, as a result of my communication with my counterpart in charge of GACC, our officials engaged in further bilateral talks to finalise the restoration of beef access based on scientific principles.
“Ireland’s reputation as an exporter of high-quality beef worldwide hinges on its compliance with stringent animal health and food safety standards. As a major food exporter, we are always very conscious of the concerns of our customers. China’s decision to resume Irish beef imports on the same conditions as before represents a clear vote of confidence in the output of our beef sector.
“This decision is a great vote of confidence in our beef sector and our committed suckler and beef farmers who produce a world class product. I look forward to seeing the value of the Chinese market grow in the time ahead to reward the efforts of everyone involved.”
Minister of State, Martin Heydon TD, whose responsibilities include market development, hailed today’s news as a positive development for the Irish beef sector.
Minister Heydon said:
“We will continue to work with the Chinese authorities to maintain and enhance our access to the Chinese market for Irish food and drink. I know that Bord Bia will soon set in motion a programme of promotions to allow exporters capitalise on the opportunities offered by this announcement. Prior to the suspension, overall Irish beef exports to China were on an upward trajectory and I am confident that we can quickly regain momentum and market share there.
“I want to recognise the role of Ireland’s Ambassador to China, Dr Ann Derwin, the current and previous agricultural attachés, and all the team at the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing for their efforts in presenting at every opportunity a reasoned case on the safety of Irish beef exports. I also want to acknowledge the work of Bord Bia Shanghai in communicating the quality and sustainability of Irish beef to key trade customers in China.”
Notes for editors
There are two types of BSE: classical BSE which occurs through the consumption of contaminated feed, and atypical BSE which is believed to occur in all cattle populations at a very low rate and which have only been identified in older cattle. Ireland is internationally recognised as having the lowest possible risk status for BSE. The negligible risk designation in May 2021 by the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH), which sets trading standards for animals and animal products, provided independent verification of the effectiveness of Ireland’s control system for BSE.
After several years of negotiations, Ireland secured access for the export of frozen boneless beef to China in April 2018. Exports grew steadily until May 2020 when shipments were suspended in line with the sanitary agreement governing the beef trade with China. Irish beef exports to China, including Hong Kong which operates as a special administrative region with different market access rules, were worth €45m in 2021, down from exports of €96 million in 2019.