CHINA has made the decision to open its markets to Irish beef following years of unsuccessful negotiations.
China will allow Irish farmers to export beef to China after granting approval to a number of meat processing establishments, the Irish minister for agriculture announced on Monday.
The minister said: "I firmly believe that our beef industry can and will compete effectively in the Chinese market and I look forward to the opportunities that this access will bring".
In Naas, 24 Chinese dairy buyers visited the Kerry PLC Innovation Centre while Lily O'Brien's in Newbridge hosted 13 grocery buyers from the Middle East.
In 2016, China became the world's second-largest beef importer behind the U.S., importing 800,000 metric tons worth $2.6 billion.
The factories that have been approved to actively export to China from this morning include the Larry Goodman-owned ABP plant in Clones in Co Monaghan, Slaney Meats based in Co Wexford, and Donegal Meat Processors, according to RTÉ.
Kildare Chilling has been contacted for a comment.
Creed said agri-food exports to China increased roughly five-fold from around €200 million in 2010 to almost €1 billion a year ago.More news: Mainz v Freiburg: Hosts awarded penalty on VAR after half-time whistle blown
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"Primarily it's a triumph for our beef farmers because they're producing quality", Minister Creed told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.
Ireland was granted a licence to sell beef in the United States three years ago.
They said an average annual increase of just 1kg per capita equates to an additional 1.38 million tonnes of beef per annum, and by 2020, it is estimated Chinese consumers will eat close to 9 million tonnes of beef.
"For beef, the door has now been opened and there is a real opportunity for the industry to build on this", said Mr Creed, who is travelling with a trade mission to the massive SIAL food exhibition in Shanghai next month.
Within the last 30 years Chinese demand for meat has quadrupled, and the country now consumes one quarter of the world's meat supply.
Average Chinese beef consumption per capita is 4kg, compared to 19kg in Ireland, so there is potential for expansion.
"The more markets we can access, the better chance we have of delivering a better margin to the primary producer here", he concluded.