CHINA – The General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) has eased restrictions that had been in place since 2020, allowing for the resumption of Irish beef shipments to China. 

The country halted beef shipments in May 2020 following an incidence of atypical BSE also referred to as mad cow disease. 

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a neurological disease in cattle, most often caused by contaminated feed. Atypical BSE is more uncommon than classical BSE and typically affects older cows.

Charlie McConalogue, the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine stated that since the suspension, Irish officials had been in constant contact with Chinese authorities.

“They provided the necessary technical information for evaluation by Chinese experts. Earlier this year, as a result of my communication with my counterpart in charge of GACC, our officials engaged in further bilateral talks to finalize the restoration of beef access based on scientific principles,” he said.

Ireland was permitted to export frozen boneless beef to China in April 2018. Up until 2020, when trading was halted in accordance with a sanitary agreement, exports were increasing.

The value of Irish beef exports to China amounted to €96 million (about U.S$ 103 million) and was on course to rise to over €100 million (about U.S$107 million) in 2020.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine (DAFM), the BSE case was discovered through its surveillance program, did not reach the food chain, and posed no threat to human health.

“Ireland’s reputation as an exporter of high-quality beef worldwide hinges on its compliance with stringent animal health and food safety standards. As a major food exporter, we are always very conscious of the concerns of our customers. 

“China’s decision to resume Irish beef imports on the same conditions as before represents a clear vote of confidence in the output of our beef sector,” said Charlie.

Likewise, Irish minister of state Martin Heydon, whose responsibilities include market development, welcomed the news.

“It has taken a trojan effort to get to this point but it is a very positive development for the sector,” he said in a tweet, adding he is now working with the industry to “capitalize on the opportunities this offers” and pick up where they left off.

China had previously banned all European beef imports in 2020 after a different BSE outbreak. This was until 2015 when Ireland became the first country to make a comeback in the market.

Three years later, the UK was also granted access to the Chinese beef market.

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