Deputy Brendan Smith is eager for beef exports to China to resume.

TD calls for China beef export resumption update

Chats with the Chinese ambassador, epidemiological reports sent to Chinese authorities, a series of ministerial correspondence, and even a letter from An Taoiseach to Xi Jinping; an extensive list of charm offensive has been detailed in a bid to reopen the Chinese market to Irish beef.

A year after the suspension of imports of Irish beef into China over health concerns, the lucrative market remains shut.

In May 2020, the Department of Agriculture in Ireland identified and confirmed an isolated case of Atypical BSE, prompting the Chinese to take the drastic action.

Deputy Brendan Smith sought an update from his party colleague on the progress in reopening the market.

Minister Charlie McConalogue outlined the actions his Department and cabinet colleagues have made in a bid to convince the Chinese authorities it was safe to do so.

"We will continue to utilise every available option for dialogue until the suspension is lifted," the minister assured Deputy Smith.

"Ultimately, it must be recognised that the timing of the decision to resume trade remains a matter for the Chinese customs authorities. However, given the importance of the market for the sector, I continue to press the case for a resumption of beef exports to China whenever there is appropriate opportunity to do so."

There is no public health risk associated with the incidence of Atypical BSE which is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate and has only been identified in older cattle.

Rather than reflect any potential hazard, Minister McConalogue contended: “The discovery of this rare, atypical case exemplifies the strength of Ireland’s controls and surveillance system.”

Speaking after the minister responded, Deputy Smith commented, “The value of beef exports to China in 2019 alone was €95m – it is a major market for Irish beef and it is vitally important that, following the completion of a full risk assessment, resumption now begins as soon as possible.”