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Minister Coveney Welcomes Chinese Minister for Agriculture to Ireland

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today welcomed the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture, Mr Niu Dun, to Ireland. Minister Niu Dun is visiting Ireland for discussions with Minister Coveney on how to develop closer co-operation between Ireland and the People's Republic of China on agriculture, fisheries and food safety issues.

Speaking in Cork, Minister Coveney said "I very much welcome this opportunity to talk in person with Minister Niu Dun. It is my strong belief that enhanced co-operation on agriculture, fisheries and food safety between our two countries can be mutually beneficial." The Minister added that "with a population of over 1.3 billion people and rising, which is becoming increasingly more urbanised and affluent, the People's Republic of China offers the Irish agri food and fisheries sector enormous potential as an export market".

The Minister pointed out that China is already a key market for Irish dairy, pigmeat and seafood products and that Ireland is recognised by the Chinese consumer as a source of high quality food.  The focus now must be to build on and expand these strong customer relationships to gain a greater share of the Chinese market and to work on gaining access for other agri food products not currently being exported there.  He referred to the ambitious targets set out in Food Harvest 2020 where there are "plans to increase the volume of food production in Ireland by one third by 2020 and to add value to that food product by approximately 40 per cent", and pointed out that the Chinese market could play a significant role in helping to meet these targets.

In conclusion the Minister said that he hoped that his discussions with Minister Niu Dun would prove fruitful and that ongoing cooperation between Ireland and China in the various areas under consideration would facilitate an ambitious approach to trade between both countries, particularly in the agri-food and fisheries sector.

Note for Editors

The Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture, Mr Niu Dun will visit Ireland between 25 and 28 May.  The visit is viewed as an opportunity to facilitate greater understanding and confidence between our two countries in the integrity of our food safety and veterinary control systems, and so facilitate trade, in addition to the sharing of expertise in the agriculture and fisheries areas.

Ireland exported over €107m in food, seafood, beverages, forestry products and wool to China in 2010 in addition to a further €95m to Hong Kong, a total of €202m.  Clearly, with a population of almost 1.3b people, the Chinese  market has very significant growth potential for exports of Irish food given the targets set out in the 2020 strategy for increases in production and exports in the Agri food sector.

The focus of the visit is therefore concentrated on our food safety, traceability systems and veterinary controls and will include a visit to a Seafood Development facility in Clonakilty, a Beef plant, a Dairy plant and the Backweston laboratory facilities.

This will ultimately culminate in the launching of mutual cooperation mechanisms in the agriculture and fisheries areas during the visit.

Date Released: 25 May 2011