They banned beef from the European Union and U.S. during the BSE crisis in 2000, and while that ban was officially lifted three years ago, trade still hasn't resumed. On Thursday (April 12th), the buyers will join 185 Irish food and drink buyers at the Convention Centre Dublin for a major one-to- one business development event involving 5,000 pre-scheduled Ôspeed- datingÕ style meetings.
Despite this, our exports to China were worth nearly a billion Euro a year ago and Minister Creed says this move will give farmers access to the biggest market on the planet.
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Kenny TD has welcomed the news today that the Chinese market has been opened to Irish beef from three factories, with five more to follow.
Minister Creed said that despite the long and "exacting" process of gaining approval by the Chinese authorities, it represented a "powerful endorsement of Ireland's high standards by the Chinese administration".
By 2020, it is estimated Chinese consumers will eat close to nine million tonnes of beef.
CEO Tara McCarthy said: "Bord Bia, and in particular, our Shanghai office, has been actively planning and preparing for today's breakthrough, and we are now well-positioned and ready to maximize this significant opportunity for Irish beef exporters".
The Irish agri-food trade exports to China reached €947 million previous year, with the country representing the second-largest market for Irish dairy and pork, reaching €667 million and €100 million, respectively.
However, farm lobby groups say it must deliver monies to farmers on the ground, as beef farmers struggle with low incomes.
Average Chinese beef consumption per capita is 4kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland, so there is potential for expansion.
"We have a number of plants that are now approved - we hope to have others approved shortly - and it is up to those plants to build their market contacts out there".
For example, the import of frozen boneless beef, the category for which Ireland will have market access, has grown nine-fold within the last five years. I will lead a trade mission to China next month to further build on our trade relationships and continue our dialogue with the Chinese government. Department officials will complete the final technicalities to allow trade to commence in the coming weeks.