Speaking having attended a number of meetings in China as part of the Irish trade mission, Mr. John Comer, President of ICMSA said that the Chinese market presents a massive opportunity for the Irish dairy sector in particular but also the Irish beef sector to diversify its range of markets and it is quite clear from my discussions that the Chinese are not only willing to do business with Ireland but are anxious that Ireland will become a major supplier of food products going forward to the market of 1.3 billon people with a growing middle class. However, to achieve this, I believe that Ireland and Irish food companies will have to establish a strong presence on the ground in China as soon as possible in order to maximise the benefit of the market which should then translate into improved returns for Irish farmers in future years.
At present, Mr. Comer said, that New Zealand is the major supplier of dairy products to the Chinese market and Chinese food companies recognise the need going forward to have a diversified group of suppliers of quality dairy products and it is as a result of this need to diversify that I believe that Irish produce has the opportunity to fill this niche and a number of the announcements this week from the Irish Dairy Board and Kerry confirm the potential of the marketplace and also the need for Irish food companies to further invest in this marketplace which is likely to drive global food prices going forward.
With in excess of 90% of Irish dairy products exported and with the expected growth in milk production in Ireland, we are going to require a broad range of markets to sell our produce in order to maximise milk price and also to spread the level of risk and I believe we have the potential to become a major supplier of dairy products to China.
With Irish food exports currently at €350m per annum, there is, Mr. Comer said, a recognised potential to grow this level of exports to €3 billion over the next three to five years and from my discussions, I believe that this is achievable in the coming years and will be based on the excellent quality produce coming from Irish farms.
Ends. 06 November 2014
John Comer (087) 2057846.