The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, has described the visit to Ireland by the Chinese Vice-Minister as “very successful” and confirmed that, as a result of the visit, the two Ministers were today signing “an action plan on mutual co-operation between the two countries in the agri-food and fisheries sectors.”

Minister Coveney said that he was “very pleased to have had the opportunity to meet Minster Niu Dun and his delegation twice during their visit” and confirmed that they had taken the opportunity to discuss “trade issues of mutual interest and the importance of the agri-food and seafood sectors to our respective economies.” The Minister said that the two sides had enjoyed a “very constructive dialogue” during the visit, during which Minister Niu Dun also met the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Shane McEntee TD.

Minister Coveney said that the Chinese market was “one of huge importance, being the world’s fourth largest food importer and the fifth largest exporter of agriculture produce.  With a population of 1.3 billion and rising and with increasing urbanisation and affluence, China offers the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector enormous potential in the future.  China is already a significant destination for exports of Irish agri-food and seafood products.  Last year, Ireland exported over €107 million in food, seafood, beverages, forestry products and wool to China, as well as a further €95 million worth to Hong Kong. China can play a key role in fulfilling the ambitions of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy in terms of increasing export value in the agri-food sector.”

As a result of the visit last week, the People’s Republic of China and Ireland reaffirmed their respective commitments to the development of deeper co-operation in agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry and specific food safety areas.  The focus of the Chinese visit was on food safety, traceability systems and veterinary controls operated by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and included visits to BIM’s Seafood Development Centre and the Department’s laboratory facilities at Backweston as well as a number of commercial processing facilities.

At their meeting this morning in Farmleigh House, the two Ministers agreed that “the combined strengths of the Chinese agriculture market and Irish technological expertise in the agri-food area could create important synergies which could be mutually beneficial to both countries.”  Minister Coveney described this as “an acknowledgement of the technical quality of the Department’s personnel and facilities, particularly those at the Backweston Laboratory Campus.” Minister Coveney indicated that a visit to China in the near future, to further build on the cooperation that had been further fostered during this highly successful 4-day visit was a likely future development.