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.
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.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed announced that from this morning the Chinese market has been opened to Irish beef. On average Chinese beef consumption per capita is 4kg, compared to average Irish consumption of 19kg of beef per person per year.
"The opening of this key market presents an excellent opportunity for the Irish beef sector, from farmers through to processors".
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Exports were valued at nearly €1 billion a year ago - while China is our second largest export market for dairy and pork, behind the UK.
As a result of increasing urbanisation and higher disposable income, consumer demand for premium imported beef is forecast to rise over the coming years, which could see Irish agri-food exports increase dramatically. "We would expect that this first group of plants will be in a position to commence trade with China in the very near future".
"This is an important first step; MII will continue to work with the Department of Agriculture and the Chinese authorities to quickly secure the approval to export for all Irish beef processing plants and to extend the list of eligible products that can be traded", he said.
Last week the meat processors Kildare Chilling hosted 21 buyers from China, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Germany and North America as part of Bord Bia's Marketplace International, which saw over 50 international food buyers visit Kildare to meet with leading businesses in the county.
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"In addition to this first tranche of approvals, I am hopeful that a number of other Irish beef plants will not be too far behind".
IFA President Joe Healy also welcomed the announcement.
"Primarily it's a triumph for our beef farmers because they're producing quality".
"The opening of Irish beef access is testimony to our industry's strength, reputation and proven track record in the Chinese market", she said.
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