Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
741. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when beef exports to China will recommence; the estimated financial loss due to the suspension of exports; the discussions he has had with Chinese officials regarding the suspension of exports; if he has meetings scheduled with Chinese officials about the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10632/20]
On 14 May, my Department identified a suspected case of 'Atypical BSE' in a 14-year old cow as a result of its surveillance of ‘fallen’ animals – these are on-farm deaths which are sent to a collection centre (knackery) for sampling and destruction. On 22 May, confirmatory tests carried out at my Department’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory verified the suspect case as one of Atypical BSE. Atypical BSE is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate and has only been identified in older cattle. There is no public health risk associated with this occurrence.
The OIE has determined that the incidence of Atypical BSE is not considered in determining a country’s BSE risk status. Hence, the discovery of this case has no implications for Ireland’s 'controlled risk' status which has been in place since 2008. This classification recognises that Ireland’s BSE controls are effective and that, under OIE rules, Irish beef can be safely traded internationally.
Nevertheless, on a temporary basis and in line with the specific protocol agreed with the Chinese authorities, Ireland voluntarily suspended beef exports to China from 22 May, until the epidemiological report on this case has been considered by the Chinese authorities.
The epidemiological report in this case has been forwarded to the Embassy of Ireland Beijing for onward transmission to the Chinese authorities. Our Embassy is liaising closely with relevant Chinese officials with a view to seeking an early resumption of the beef trade to China. The decision to resume trade is a matter for the Chinese authorities.
It is not possible at present to estimate what potential losses, if any, might result from the temporary suspension of the beef trade with China. The available data shows that beef exports to China have grown significantly in the short time that the market has been open. According to the latest CSO data, almost 8,200 tonnes of Irish beef worth approximately €40m were shipped in 2019, the first full year the market was open. Shipments in the first quarter of 2020 amounted to some 2,200 tonnes and were worth approximately €11m.