Irish beef exports to China to resume after BSE case

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that China has agreed to resume imports of Irish beef.

China has accepted Irish science that the BSE case found was atypical.

China had suspended imports last November following the discovery of atypical Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as Mad Cow Disease, in a dead cow in the west of Ireland.

It came as exports had only resumed in January 2023, following a previous ban that began in 2020 following a separate discovery.

The news coincides with the Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s visit to Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said he expected the change to occur imminently.

Speaking at the end of Mr Li’s visit to Dublin, he said there was a clear desire on both sides to deepen relations and increase investment.

He said the Chinese government was also liberalising its travel rules for Irish citizens, allowing them to stay in China for up to 15 days without a visa.

“So two very tangible outcomes and a lot more that we can work together on,” he said.

During the open period last year beef exports to China were worth €20m and in 2019, the last full year of access to the market, exports were worth €40m.

The news of the reopening has been welcomed by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

He said: “Negotiating the resumption of beef access has been a top priority for me since the temporary suspension last November.

“My department has engaged at diplomatic, political and technical levels to provide the scientific and technical detail needed to reassure the Chinese authorities of the effectiveness of Ireland’s BSE controls.

“These efforts culminated in the presentation of detailed epidemiological information to China in early December, and my department delivered a detailed presentation to GACC Vice Minister Li Kuiwen at a face-to-face meeting in Dublin last month.

“I wish to thank the Chinese experts for their positive and constructive approach to this matter.”

President of the Irish Farmers’ Association Francie Gorman also welcomed the announcement and said farmers must see the benefit.

“We are always seeking access to as many markets as possible and the Chinese market offers very significant opportunities.

“The renewal of access to this market must be reflected in further price increases for farmers,” he said.