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Minister Smith in Largest Ever Trade Mission to Japan

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD is in Japan as part of the largest ever Irish trade mission to Japan.

The trade mission is being led by An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD and also includes the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, John McGuinness TD, in addition to 70 Irish companies and organisations, including a number of Irish food companies.

Japan is the second largest economy in the world and Ireland is the fifth biggest exporter and the biggest exporter per capita to Japan in the EU. Japan is a particularly important market for Irish pork and Minister Smith said that it was important that every effort is made to ensure that our international customers have total confidence in the safety and quality of Irish food products.

Minister Smith had a series of important engagements aimed at promoting Irish food and attended, along with Irish companies, a number of events organised by Enterprise Ireland, including a Functional Foods Seminar also attended by both Irish and Japanese companies. The Minister also participated in a number of Bord Bia events, including the official opening of a major Irish Meat Seminar attended by a number of Japanese importers and meat traders. Japan remains the world's largest net importer of food and with a population of 127.7 million people, it is a key focus market for Irish exports. Irish food and drink exports to Japan were valued at €24 million in 2007.

In addition, the Minister and senior Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials are meeting with Senior Vice Minister Noritoshi Ishida and officials from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Minister Smith said he had impressed upon the Japanese Minister the huge importance placed by the Irish Government on the quality and safety of Irish food.

While addressing the recent pork crisis, he also outlined the progress made in very significantly reducing the incidence of BSE in Ireland and across the EU and expressed the hope that the Japanese market might be reopened to Irish beef.

Minister Smith warmly welcomed the confirmation by the Japanese Health Ministry, following the recall of Irish pigmeat, that normal arrangements continue for the importation of Irish pigmeat. The Minister said that the Japanese market for Irish pork was worth €13 million annually and said he was confident that it had the potential to be worth considerably more than that.

Date Released: 14 January 2009