China approves meat imports from Italy; Brazil and Ireland still in the cold
China’s customs administration said this week that it approved beef imports from Italy on October 26. China relies heavily on imports to meet the growing demand for meat from an increasingly affluent middle class.
It should be remembered that China is no longer receiving beef from Brazil. Since September 4, following a health protocol between the two countries. The same with Ireland for over a year now.
Brazil has voluntarily suspended its sales on the Chinese market after the confirmation of two atypical cases of “mad cow” disease in Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais. Although sales were halted by the Brazilian government’s decision, it is up to China to determine the end of the embargo, which has yet to take place.
As for Ireland, over a year ago beef exports to China were also suspended following the discovery of an atypical case of BSE. The temporary suspension in May 2020 was a major setback for Ireland, given the time and energy that was invested over the previous decade to secure access to the Chinese market.
In 2020, China’s total beef imports stood at 1.7 million tonnes, and levels are expected to increase further this year. Re-establishing a foothold in this market is seen as essential for the long-term viability of the Irish beef industry.
Irish beef exports to China began in 2018, following a sustained diplomatic and industrial effort, when two slaughterhouses were allowed to ship beef to the country.
Hong Kong and other Far Eastern markets have traditionally provided established outlets for cattle offal – hooves, tongues and other low-value products – but accessing China for high-quality cuts of beef was a business. more difficult.
After the breakthrough of 2018, exports to China experienced impressive growth in 2019, with more than 20 factories having been certified for trade. More than 12,000 tonnes were exported in this way, for a turnover of nearly 40 million euros.
Although Chinese sales are small compared to Ireland’s overall beef trade – which totaled 560,000 tonnes in 2020 and generated € 2.1 billion in export revenue – the market was considered to have excellent potential. growth.
However, the importance of reopening the Chinese market has been illustrated by recent reports of a proposed free market agreement between the UK and Australia.
Such a deal would inevitably include increased access for cheap Australian beef to the UK market. This has worrying implications for Irish beef exports to Britain. The UK absorbs almost half of Ireland’s beef exports each year, with trade accounting for nearly € 1 billion.
Increased competition from Australian beef – in addition to American meat, Mercosur and New Zealand – would inevitably affect Irish prices and margins.