Opening Friday’s meat seminar, Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy outlined the challenges that lie ahead for the sector, including Brexit, COVID-19 and climate change.
The CEO ended by saying she was confident that with Ireland’s green credentials, we could meet all the challenges that lie ahead.
The seminar included a market access presentation from Department of Agriculture assistant secretary Sinead McPhilips.
She outlined priorities for market access in 2021 and said: “The overriding priority from our point of view is to regain access for beef to the Chinese market.”
Beef exports were voluntarily suspended by Ireland in May 2020, following the confirmation of an atypical BSE case in a cow.
McPhillips said: “There has been intense communication between Irish and Chinese authorities at government, diplomatic and at a technical level, and we are confident that we will regain access.
"At the moment, the Chinese government, like all other countries, is concentrating on COVID issues and this has delayed our access.”
The seminar outlined that there was a marginal decline in the value of food and drink exports of 2% in 2020. The value of Irish beef exports fell by 2% to €1.9bn.
The UK remains the largest market for beef exports, taking 44% of all Irish beef exports in 2020, down from 47% in 2019.
While Tara McCarthy welcomed the clarity around trade between the EU and UK, she also said that Bord Bia was “acutely aware of the UK’s ability to complete trade deals with other countries”.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon outlined the importance of new markets in diversifying Ireland’s meat exports.
“Our Department will be concentrated on a number of key markets in 2021, which will include China, Japan and Thailand and also the US and Mexico.”
These trade missions will be either in person or virtual, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.
In a poll conducted during the seminar, Bord Bia asked participants what markets they would be prioritising for meat exports in 2021.
Forty-four percent of respondents said they would be concentrating on EU markets, 40% said they would be concentrating on international markets and just 16% said they would be concentrating on UK markets.
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