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The Chinese are lapping up Irish dairy - and that means big money for exporters

And why shouldn’t they like it? It’s grand, sure.

Jet Li in a Chinese milk advertisement damien_farrell damien_farrell

CHINA WAS IRELAND’S second-biggest market for dairy last year with food and drink exports to the world’s most populous nation worth over €500 million for the first time.

While the UK remains the biggest destination for Irish produce, its share of Ireland’s food and drink exports went down last year due to dramatic rises in goods shipped to Asia, North America and Africa.

Exports to China were up 40%, compared to only 2% growth in EU regions outside the UK.

Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, this morning published its performance report, which said food and drinks exports hit a record high or nearly €10.5 billion in 2014.

Dairy products were the biggest earners, followed by beef, prepared foods, and beverages – although the biggest growth was a 20% rise in poultry.

Food exports Bord Bia Bord Bia

Chinese pay a premium for Irish milk

Earlier this week, Enterprise Ireland chief Julie Sinnamon said one of the biggest growth areas for Irish exporters and startups had been the food and drinks trade.

“When I was in China in November … you could actually see Avonmore milk trucks in Shanghai delivering long-life milk to the markets, selling at three times the price of locally-produced milk,” she said.

It’s a real success story, but most people in Ireland aren’t aware of the progress being made.”

Food-and-drinks giant Glanbia, which owns the Avonmore brand and Kilmeaden cheeses, has been building the first new Irish milk-processing plant for decades in Co Monaghan. It will make long-life products for China.

Milk Bord Bia Bord Bia

How is 2015 looking?

But Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said it would be more challenging to keep the growth going in 2015.

EU milk quotas would be scrapped in April and that was expected to drive rise in production of over 10%, but global prices were already low and expected to fall further.

Ireland’s milk output is predicted to be up 50% by 2020.

Beef supply was also forecast to fall, although prices were expected to increase.

Ireland recently became the first EU country to be approved for US beef supply since the BSE bans and Bord Bia will soon launch a website aimed at American consumers.

READ: Put down that glass of raw milk, say Ireland’s food safety experts >

READ: ‘We can create full employment by the end of 2018′: Bruton >

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