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beef exports

Irish beef exports to China resume after being suspended in 2020 due to pathogen

Shipments to China were suspended when a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease, was discovered.

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State, Martin Heydon, today announced the resumption of Irish beef exports to China.

Beef shipments to China were suspended following the confirmation in May 2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of an isolated case of atypical BSE.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as Mad Cow Disease is a neurological disorder of cattle that damages their central nervous system.

This isolated case was detected by the Department’s surveillance programme, did not enter the food chain and posed no risk to human health.

Atypical BSE occurs naturally and sporadically in all cattle populations at a very low rate and is not considered a public health risk.

Beef exports were immediately suspended as a precautionary measure.

Minister McConalogue stated:

“Negotiating the resumption of beef access has been a top priority for my Department over the last two and a half years. Together with colleagues in the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing, my officials have been in ongoing contact with the Chinese authorities since the start of the suspension.”

“Ireland’s reputation as an exporter of high-quality beef worldwide hinges on its compliance with stringent animal health and food safety standards. As a major food exporter, we are always very conscious of the concerns of our customers.

“China’s decision to resume Irish beef imports on the same conditions as before represents a clear vote of confidence in the output of our beef sector,” he said.

“I look forward to seeing the value of the Chinese market grow in the time ahead to reward the efforts of everyone involved.”

Minister of State, Martin Heydon TD, whose responsibilities include market development, hailed today’s news as a positive development for the Irish beef sector.

Minister Heydon said:

“We will continue to work with the Chinese authorities to maintain and enhance our access to the Chinese market for Irish food and drink. I know that Bord Bia will soon set in motion a programme of promotions to allow exporters capitalise on the opportunities offered by this announcement.”

“Prior to the suspension, overall Irish beef exports to China were on an upward trajectory and I am confident that we can quickly regain momentum and market share there.”

There are two types of BSE: classical BSE which occurs through the consumption of contaminated feed, and atypical BSE which is believed to occur in all cattle populations at a very low rate and which have only been identified in older cattle. 

After several years of negotiations, Ireland secured access for the export of frozen boneless beef to China in April 2018.

Exports grew steadily until May 2020 when shipments were suspended in line with the sanitary agreement governing the beef trade with China.

Irish beef exports to China were worth €96 million in 2019.

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