Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, has hosted a major China-Ireland food safety forum in the dairy and infant formula sectors.
The event took place at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) complex in Backweston, Co Kildare, and was jointly hosted with Chinese Minister Bi Jingquan, who is minister with responsibility for the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA).
"Today is another milestone in Ireland's growing agri-food partnership with China," Minister Coveney said. "I was delighted to co-host this event with Minister Bi to mark his visit to Ireland and also to welcome the high level representatives from the many Irish, Chinese and international companies to exchange ideas on food safety, technology and innovation in the hugely important dairy sector."
The minister added: "Our agri-food exports to China have grown over 270 per cent to €620m in just five years and this year alone dairy exports from Ireland to China are up 25 per cent on last year. This is testament to the strong resonance which the reliability and quality of our products have with Chinese consumers because we know that they are expecting the best. Ireland's international reputation depends on its meeting the highest expectations of consumers, and as a matter of Government policy, we are committed to strong and effective regulation. Added to the reputation for food safety is of course our growing reputation for sustainability in dairy production and these two factors combined are the bedrock on which our exports are based."
The forum is the flagship event during Minister Bi's three-day visit to Ireland, during which he is accompanied by a range of top-level Chinese industry representatives. The Minister also had the opportunity to visit a dairy farm in Co Wicklow to learn more about production in Ireland before visiting the Danone plant in Co Wexford, which is one of Ireland's largest producers of baby and infant food products. Later today, September 14, Minister Bi will also visit Kerry Group's new flagship Technology and Innovation Centre in Naas, Co Kildare, while Bord Bia will host a parallel seminar on Irish dairy production for industry representatives.
The event this morning was preceded by a ceremony to mark the signing by both ministers of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) setting out future cooperation between both countries in the area of food safety. Minister Coveney added: "This MOU signifies that our agri-food partnership with China is about much more than trade and includes exchanges of ideas and knowledge on areas of mutual interest. I was delighted to formalise this relationship between my Department and CFDA this morning and am certain that both organisations will gain substantially from the cooperation. In many ways it mirrors the many partnerships between leading Irish and Chinese agri-food companies and together marks the basis for a sustainable and long-term strategic relationship between both countries."
Minister Bi will have a bilateral meeting with the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, to discuss regulatory systems in the medical devices and pharmaceutical sectors as well as visiting leading companies in this area.