EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan held a series of ‘productive meetings’ with Chinese Ministers including Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Han Changfu and Market Regulation Minister Zhang Mao as part of a trade mission in mid-May.
The Irish Commissioner led a 70-strong EU agri-food business delegation to the SIAL trade fair in Shanghai, where the EU was the Region of Honour, with representatives of businesses with a turnover of over €1 trillion including Ornua, Glanbia, ABP International, Dawn Meats and Kepak from Ireland. Speaking at a press conference in Beijing on May 18th, Hogan said the Chinese market was of ‘significant strategic importance for the EU agri-food sector,’ noting that food industry exports to China doubled between 2012-2017 from €6 billion to €12 billion. Chinese agri-food exports had also increased significantly.
The EU Farm chief pointed to the 8million-tonne gap in the Chinese beef market, forecast by the Chinese Meat Association for the medium-term, which represented a volume equivalent to the EU’s entire annual beef output.
The EU meat industry, led by the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) and representatives from Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands, used Hogan’s visit to China to organise a meat forum in Shanghai on May 16th. The aim was to highlight the food safety model operated by the EU, with its high level of quality and safety for beef and pork.
Hogan and his compatriot, Minister Michael Creed, spoke at the event in the margins of SIAL China – Asia’s largest food exhibition. The Farm Commissioner described the forum as ‘an excellent example of how we like our EU promotion policy to work, adding ‘one of the main objectives of the promotion policy is to encourage beneficiaries to work together and look for synergies.’
Mr Creed called it a testament of the power of collective action and collaboration. ‘We have a particular opportunity to present the Irish beef sector following the recent success in obtaining access to the Chinese market,’ the Macroom man said.
Meanwhile, IFA president Joe Healy said the country should take a ‘brand Ireland approach to selling beef in China.’
He said the Chinese market – with a population of over 1.3 billion people – presents a unique opportunity to build a high-value Irish beef brand, similar to Kerrygold model for dairy.
‘The Chinese market could not be more important in the context of the risk to the UK market from Brexit … China presents a unique opportunity and we must get it right,’ the Athenry dairy farmer added.
• Rose O’Donovan is Editor-in-Chief of the Brussels based publication AGRA FACTS and has been following the evolution of European farm policy for over 10 years.