FINE Gael Cork East TD, Tom Barry, has today (Friday) said that a number of major opportunities have been opened up for Irish agri-food business in China, thanks to work carried out by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, over the last week. Deputy Barry was speaking as Minister Coveney’s trade mission comes to an end with significant agreements reached for a number of sectors including the horse industry, beef and fisheries.
“China is the world’s second largest economy, and it represents huge potential for exporting agri-businesses in Ireland. The Government is determined to develop China as a strategic trading partner, with Minister Coveney making significant progress in this regard during his trade mission. Last year Ireland exported food, beverage and animal products worth €240 million to China. This is an impressive platform from which to expand. Indeed, Ireland is very well poised to capitalise on the projected growth of Chinese cities over the next ten years.
“Minister Coveney’s trade mission has given the Government an opportunity to sell the message, face to face, that Ireland is a world class producer of agri-food products. The Minister’s interaction with senior members of the Chinese Government, as well as with Chinese state agencies and commercial bodies, is already paying dividends.
“Earlier this week we had the fantastic news that Ireland has been chosen as a partner to set up the first national equine facility in China; a huge boost to the horse industry here. This has been followed by the announcement that Connolly’s Red Mills has become the first foreign company to gain access to the Chinese market for horse food.
“It’s hugely encouraging that the Government in Jiangsu, a province of 78 million people, have made it clear that they are interesting in setting up trading partnerships with Irish agri-food businesses. These discussions will be further progressed when the local Mayor comes to visit Ireland later this year. This province alone accounts for about 10% of Chinese GDP.
“Major progress has been made on opening up the Chinese market to Irish beef exports. A Joint Working Group has been established with the Chinese authorities; one of the few such working groups to be set up. Memorandums of Understanding have also been signed with the Chinese authorities, which will see us exchange expertise on agriculture and fisheries sectors. In particular, opportunities are being explored to supply Chinese seafood buyers with boarfish from the Irish market.
“These developments are just some of the highlights to come as a result of Minister Coveney’s trade mission. The potential for Irish businesses in the Chinese marketplace cannot be underestimated. China accounts for 8% of the world’s landmass, but is home to 20% of the global population. Ireland, as a small country with significant food production capacity, is in an excellent position to cater for the increasing demand within the Chinese marketplace. I commend Minister Coveney on the progress he has achieved, and I look forward to learning of more positive developments in the coming months as these partnerships and relationships are developed further.”