Martin Heydon, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture with responsibility for new market development  and Kildare South Fine Gael TD has welcomed significant progress in gaining access to the Chinese market for Irish sheepmeat. 


Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister Ni of the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) have signed and exchanged formal protocols that will pave the way for the export of sheepmeat and breeding pigs from Ireland to China.


The protocol represents an important milestone in gaining access to the Chinese market. China is a substantial importer of sheepmeat, with a positive outlook for demand in the long term. 


Minister Heydon said: “My Department in collaboration with the Embassy of Ireland, has pursued market access for sheep meat with Chinese authorities over a number of years. The agreement reached today follows on from a successful inspection of Irish plants by GACC auditors in August/September 2019.”


“I know that Bord Bia has already conducted market insight research on the Chinese sheep meat market, and is working with the industry on market preparations.” 


China accounts for 38% of the global sheepmeat imports. In 2020, China’s sheepmeat imports amounted to 365,000 tonnes, valued at €1.47bn. Import prices reached a record high in the first half of 2021, averaging €4.66/kg.  


There are a number of technical steps that remain before GACC can include the list of approved plants on their website. Irish authorities will have to put in place systems and safeguards to ensure compliance with protocol requirements. This may take a number of months.


A protocol on live pigs has also been signed which sets out the quarantine and hygiene requirements for the export of high-quality breeding pigs to China. 


Minister Heydon said: “This agreement is a recognition of Ireland’s strong history of breeding and selling superior health status of pigs to many overseas markets. The export of breeding pigs is a niche market opportunity. It reflects well on the breeding population developed by specialist Irish producers.”