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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Niall Hurson Twitter

Factories ramp up preparations to resume beef exports to China

The China Animal and Agriculture Association estimates that the imported volume of beef to China will rise to 14 million tonnes by 2035

Factories are preparing to begin processing cattle for export to China once again.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue announced last week that Chinese authorities had signed off on the resumption of exports.

Beef shipments to the country were suspended following an isolated case of atypical BSE in May 2020.

This case, detected by the Department of Agriculture’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).

A spokesperson for ABP told the Farming Independent it welcomes the resumption of access to the Chinese market and the processor is “assessing opportunities” at the moment.

Dawn Meats said registration of the processing plants will begin this week.

“In order to maximise the value of Irish beef, it is critical that we maintain the greatest level of access to global markets and currently, we are limited to exporting under-30-month frozen boneless beef to China,” a spokesperson said.

“China has recently relaxed movement restrictions and with the Chinese New Year occurring later this month, we expect it will take time to re-establish levels of customer demand in the different sectors.”

Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly Barry Cowen says the Chinese authorities’ decision to lift its 2020 ban on Irish beef imports will also boost efforts to get a new meat plant in the midlands over the line.

Construction of the €40m Banagher Chilling Limited plant, which is backed by Chinese investors and is expected to slaughter 36,000 animals a year, has stalled amid a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission for the facility last June.

With the case due to return to the High Court in the coming months, Mr Cowen, a long-time supporter of the project, said its international promoters will “welcome” the announcement.

​“The reopening of the China market for Irish beef will of course be welcomed by the Banagher investors. It will hopefully be an adequate reward for their investment/commitment and no little patience to date,” he said.

“They remain steadfast in their efforts to proceed, for which I and the wider region are most grateful.”

Bord Bia China Manager Conor O’Sullivan told the Farming Independent that the previously approved 21 processing plants have been given the green light to resume export to China.

“We made the estimate that if we could get up to full speed with all of the 21 approved plants, we could export 3,000 tonnes per month,” O’Sullivan said.

“We’ll try our best to get demand back up as quickly as possible and to get the China premium back reflected in the prices is a key goal of ours.”

According to latest figures from the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), China imported 1.94m tonnes of fresh and frozen beef in the first three quarters of 2022.

The China Animal and Agriculture Association estimates that the imported volume of beef to China will rise to 14 million tonnes by 2035, providing plenty of room for growth for countries keen to claim their piece of market.

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