Chinese market critical to Ireland’s food sector, says Charlie McConalogue

Minister for Agriculture begins trade mission to Beijing and Shanghai

China’s market will be critically important for the development of Ireland’s food sector, particularly for premium products, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said. Speaking at the start of a trade mission to Beijing and Shanghai, Mr McConalogue said the end of China’s zero-Covid policy offered an opportunity to promote Irish food and drink products.

“China is a market with the largest population and an ever-increasing middle class who are driving increased demand for high quality food and beverages, which the Irish agri-food sector excels at producing. The potential for growing the value of our trade with the Chinese market, in particular for beef exports, is critically important to the development ambitions of the sector, which ultimately supports the sustainability of our family farm model.

“My clear focus on this trade mission is to support the sector’s efforts to grow their presence in China especially for added-value products,” he said.

The first shipment of Irish beef arrived in Shanghai last month, following the lifting of a three-year ban in January. Irish beef was first admitted to the Chinese market in 2018 but imports were suspended the following year due to a case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).


Irish beef exports to China were worth almost €40 million in 2019 and Bord Bia hopes to regain Ireland’s previous share of the market quickly despite increased competition from countries such as Brazil. Last December, weeks after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, Bord Bia launched a three-year campaign to promote Irish beef and lamb in China.

“Ireland has built a solid trading relationship with China and it is now our sixth largest trade destination for food and drink by value, accounting for 4 per cent of all exports,” Bord Bia chief executive Jim O’Toole said.

“A growing middle class with high disposable incomes in Chinese cities is creating an aspirational consumer base with an increasing interest in premium food products and access to sophisticated digital retail platforms. Irish exporters are ideally placed to service these consumer demands.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times