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China Trade Mission 2012 Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD to lead the largest ever Agri-Food Trade Delegation to China

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, will lead the largest ever Irish trade delegation from the meat, dairy, seafood, beverages, bloodstock and agri-services sectors and representative government bodies to China from 15-22 April.

Speaking before his departure, Minister Coveney stated that "I do not think that it is an over statement to suggest that this is one of the most ambitious trade delegations which my Department, Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland have brought together. Fifty one companies and 127 individuals who are active in China across the broad spectrum of the agri-food, agri-tech, bloodstock and beverages and other related sectors are participating.  This is in addition to Irish Universities involved in the provision of educational courses in food safety and agriculture science and government agencies such as Teagasc, BIM, the Marine Institute, the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing which are developing strong alliances with Chinese policy makers and government bodies". Chief Executives of leading Irish companies involved in the export of meats, dairy products, seafood and agri-tech products and services to China will accompany the Minister to China.

This visit reflects the importance which the Irish government attaches not only to its strategic relationship with China but also to its trade relationship with China. It follows the successful visit of the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture, Mr Niu Dun in May last year, when Minister Coveney signed an Action Plan on mutual co-operation in the agri-food and fisheries sectors. More recently Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to Ireland from 18-20 February 2012 highlighted the importance which China attaches to its relationship with Ireland when he identified agriculture as a key area for co-operation between both countries. An Taoiseach’s subsequent visit to China further deepened Irish Sino relations.

Minister Coveney stated that "The Trade Mission will afford companies an excellent opportunity to identify and deliver new business ventures, while at the same time facilitating meetings and networking events with companies and key people within the trade in China. In this regard, five sector specific programmes have been developed for the dairy, meat and genetics, seafood, bloodstock and agri-tech sectors.  This will facilitate networking by participating companies and will allow participants to visit and see at first hand production facilities in China".

These five sector specific programmes are in addition to the Minister's own political programme which will involve a series of political meetings with the key Chinese Ministers involved in market access for agricultural products and live animals, the Chinese Minister for  Inspection and Quarantine Service, Mr Zhi Shuping and the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture, Mr Niu Dun. The Minister will also meet with key government officials in Jiangsu /Nanjing and Shanghai regions and with the Academy of Sea Fisheries, in addition to visiting the Chinese National Reference Laboratory for BSE in Qingdao. In addition Minister Coveney has been asked to make a key note speech at Nanjing University, one of the leading agriculture universities in China.

Minister Coveney added "What is unique about the Trade Mission is that it brings together this broad spectrum of companies from both the agri-food and agri-tech sectors, government agencies and universities which have been involved in developing and maintaining the reputation of Ireland as a country that produces quality food and beverages, in a sustainable manner, that are exported to over 170 countries worldwide.  It will show that we value and invest in research, innovation and training of farmers and have developed cutting edge technologies in relation to animal genetics and the production of food. We pride our food production on the fact that we apply the strictest veterinary controls and that our food safety standards comply with the most exacting standards of the 170 countries to which we exports food and beverages".

Minister Coveney stated that "Ireland views China as a key strategic trade partner not alone from a trading perspective but in terms of sharing expertise and experience in sustainable food production.  China has a strong demand for imports of quality food, given the size of its population and concerns over food security and safety.  Ireland is strategically placed to be a key supplier of quality meats, dairy products, beverages seafood and other products and services to China.  Already in 2011, Ireland exported €240m in dairy, meats, beverages, seafood and hides and skins to China.  Indeed, infant formula is one of Ireland's biggest food exports to China, worth over €100m in 2011. Ireland produces over 10% of the world’s total supply of infant formula annually and with the abolition of EU quotas, we have the capacity to develop this market further."

Note For Editors

  • China is the world's second largest economy, having surpassed Japan in 2011. It is expected to become the largest economy in the world in the next 15 to 20 years, overcoming the United States.

  • With a population of 1.3 billion, China is the most populous country in the world and therefore one of the largest consumers and producers of agricultural products.

  • Urbanization is growing rapidly with almost 50% of its inhabitants living in urban areas, forecast to grow to 51.5% by 2015, and as much as 70% by 2035.  There are currently over 160 cities with population over 1m, and six urban areas with a population over 10m.

  • Irish food and drink exports to Asia are estimated at €370m for 2011, representing an increase of 40% on the previous year.  The main components of the trade are Dairy Ingredients (including infant formula), pigmeat, fish and alcohol beverages. China (including Hong Kong) is by far the largest market accounting for €187m, a 47% increase on the 2010 figure of €127m. 

Minister Coveney's Outline Itinerary

April 15, Sunday  - Beijing and Tianjin State Farms

  • Attend promotional meetings organised by Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and Thoroughbred Horse Industry
  • Briefing with entire Trade Delegation.

April 16, Monday - Beijing

  • Ministerial and Technical meetings with Ministry for Agriculture
  • Meeting with Minister for AQSIQ (Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Services)
  • Meeting with China Agriculture University and UCD to promote educational linkages.
  • Promotion of Irish Agriculture Sevices and  Machinery Demonstration
  • Trade Reception in Irish Embassy for participating companies (Irish and Chinese)

April 17, Tuesday


  • Meeting with President of China Academy of Agricultural Science and Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture
  • Minister Coveney  addresses Sino-Irish Forum to promote sustainable food production


  • Meeting with Director of Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute
  • Attend dinner hosted by President of Chinese Academy of Fisheries Sciences

April 18, Wednesday


  • Visit Yellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute
  • Visit to China Animal Health & Epidemiology Centre and also National Reference Laboratory for BSE


  • Meeting with Shandong Government Agency dealing with imported food products
  • Trade Promotion event for the seafood and pork sector

April 19, Thursday


  • Meeting with Jiangsu Provincial Government
  • Trade event with Leading pigmeat processor and China Chamber of Commerce
  • Meeting with President of Nanjing Agricultural University
  • Keynote speech by Minister Coveney at Nanjing Agricultural University
  • Meeting with Mayor of Nanjing


  • Minister launches Ireland-China Food Network as part of the global diaspora network

April 20, Friday - Shanghai

  • Minister Coveney opens Bord Bia's Irish Food Hub
  • Chinese Media Interviews
  • Trade and Industry meetings
  • Minister addresses Bord Bia Seminar
  • Minister addresses Bord Bia Trade Reception

April 21, Saturday Return to Dublin

Date Released: 13 April 2012