China may visit the Republic of Ireland this year to conduct inspections of its meat processing facilities to check food safety standards and operating procedures. The visits from Chinese food officials suggest the country - and the world's biggest economy - may be interested in boosting agricultural trade with Ireland.
Brendan Gleeson, assistant secretary general with the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, told Bord Bía’s Meat Prospects Seminar that China was Ireland’s “biggest individual country market”.
“Audits are expected in the next few weeks, and then the protocol is for certificates to be agreed,” Gleeson said. “Subsequently, individual plants are to be inspected and approved.”
China talks progressing
Following on from this, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said talks between China and Ireland were "progressing" but they were part of a "wider process".
It is believed that China will conduct its own factory approval inspections through the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA). A final date has not been made for the visit and it is unlikely it will be made public.
Before China would be able to extend trade with Ireland, a complex interdepartmental process takes place and it could take years for China to reach a final verdict.
But the importance of China to Ireland’s trade cannot be underestimated. According to Bord Bía – the body that represents Ireland’s food and drink industry – agriculture exports to China in 2014 were worth approximately €650m ($705m).