The visit to an Irish beef and dairy farm by Premier Li of China has been described by Bord Bia as another important step in securing further market opportunities for Irish exporters in this high-potential market.
Speaking in Mayo, Bord Bia CEO Aidan Cotter said: "Ireland has built a solid trading relationship with China which has seen the value of Irish food and drink exports increase 10-fold in 10 years. China is our sixth-largest export market overall, our second most important for dairy and pigmeat, and a growing market for our seafood. In 2014, international markets (those outside the European Union) were the star performers in Irish food and drink exports, achieving their fifth year of continuous growth. Almost one-third were destined for Asia, of which almost two-thirds were accounted for by China, where exports increased by over 40 per cent to reach €547 million."
Mr Cotter joined An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, and representatives from Ireland's farm organisations for a visit to Cathal and Mary Garvey's farm in Gortbrack, Ower, County Mayo. The farm is a member of Bord Bia's beef and lamb quality assurance scheme (BLQAS) and Bord Bia's sustainable dairy assurance scheme (SDAS).
Premier Li was informed about the commitment the Garveys, and the farmers of Ireland, have made under the Origin Green programme to attaining measurable, independently audited objectives in sustainable production, with particular attention to animal health, welfare and traceability, water conservation, feed monitoring, pasture and environmental management, farm safety and biodiversity. As part of the programme, Bord Bia is currently carbon footprinting approximately 700 farms per week.
During the farm walk, the premier also had the opportunity to experience the unique characteristics of Ireland's grass-based beef and dairy production systems on a farm where cows can graze from early February to the end of November (290-day grazing season). Cathal's aim is to optimise the grass consumption of his herd, thereby reducing his feed bill and maximising the return from his production system.
China holds great potential for beef exporters following the recent granting of access to Irish beef, the first country in the EU to reach this landmark. Bord Bia and major Irish food exporters travelled to Shanghai in recent weeks to participate at the SIAL China Food Fair, aiming to further build on Ireland's growing trade. This followed the participation of over 100 Chinese buyers who travelled to Dublin in March to attend Bord Bia's Marketplace International 2015 event.