Thursday, 11 October 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Trade Missions Data
I am firmly committed to increasing market access and opportunities for all Irish agrifood exports around the world. Total agrifood exports amounted to €13.6 billion in 2017, according to the Central Statistics Office trade statistics, an increase of 74% since 2009. My officials continue to work towards opening and enhancing access to as many markets as possible. This is a key part of our response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and is in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy. Opening new markets involves a wide range of detailed work taking place across a range of levels, including political, diplomatic, technical and official levels.
I am delighted that already in 2018 the Chinese market has opened to Irish beef. Three Irish beef establishments were approved to export to China in April and a further three Irish beef establishments were approved in June following on my trade mission to China in May. Beef access has been achieved as a result of significant effort by team Ireland, including Ministers, departmental officials, the Irish embassy in Beijing and agencies such as Bord Bia over several years. Beef exports to China have commenced.
My Department also recently agreed veterinary health certificates for the export of beef, sheepmeat and poultry to both Kuwait and Qatar. These certificates apply for meat and meat products and are a result of a joined-up effort between my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and, in particular, the embassy in the United Arab Emirates, which is also accredited to Kuwait and Qatar.
The role of trade missions cannot be underestimated. I have led trade missions to the US, Canada and China this year, and my Department is currently making the final arrangements for a further trade mission to Indonesia and Malaysia at the end of October. This will include participants from across the agrifood sector and will facilitate extensive trade contacts as well as high-level political discussions. Both of these markets had been identified by my Department as offering significant potential to the agrifood sector.
These and the other missions that my Department is planning will serve to enhance and improve our existing levels of market access in these destinations. It will also promote Ireland’s reputation as a producer of high quality, safe and sustainably produced meat and dairy products. The destinations are also in keeping with the recent market profiling exercise that was completed by Bord Bia at my request, as part of the seven-point action plan on market access. This exercise identified opportunities in new and more mature markets, and will provide valuable market intelligence both for industry operators and policy makers.
My Department will continue to seek out and identify new markets, and I am ready to respond as appropriate to other opportunities that may arise.
The trade missions outlined by the Minister have been successful but I am concerned about emerging markets. He mentioned India, China and other areas. I am also concerned about Brexit and how we replace the British market. Will the Minister comment on that?
The UK was the market for almost 40% of our exports in 2017, which is the most recent statistic available, amounting to more than €5 billion worth of products. It should always be our most important market. Much of our efforts since the UK Brexit vote has concerned intensifying our engagement with the UK market and sending a clear signal that we want the closest possible trading relationship. There are hard won yards that we have in UK retail outlets. Among the main supermarket chains with whom I have met personally, there is an awareness that we are here for the long haul. Geography should be a determinant of trade, all other things being equal. That market, which is one of the most valuable in terms of price for primary producers, will, hopefully, remain important. That has been a focus of our endeavour in the negotiations that have been ongoing around Brexit. Nevertheless, market diversification is equally prudent, which is why much of the effort has focused on securing new market opportunities such as beef exports to China.