AGAINST a backdrop of threatened tariffs on United States beef fuelled by Beijing-Washington tensions, China continues to open its doors to the world’s beef.
Irish government agriculture officials have told international media China is set to approve supplies from three of their beef plants.
It makes Ireland the first European Union country to gain access to the lucrative and fast-growing Chinese beef market.
Australian analysts say it’s likely China will continue to open access to a range of beef exporters, although whether trade tensions with the US are speeding up the process they are not so sure about.
“China has been growing their access for a couple of years now – originally it was just Australia, then south American countries, then Brazil, then the US and now Ireland,” said Rabobank senior analyst animal protein Angus Gidley-Baird.
“It is probably more a case of how quickly they can get through the accreditation process and which countries can supply beef.”
On top of market access for frozen product China has also recently approved Canadian access for fresh beef.
Fresh access, of course, is already granted to Australia, New Zealand, the US and Argentina.
Ireland is a relatively small exporter, Mr Gidley-Baird said.
“Most of their exports go to Europe with the United Kingdom being the destination for about half of their exports,” he said.
“With Brexit going on, they were probably keen to try and get into the China market.”
Trade map data shows in 2017 Ireland exported USD $240,000 in frozen product and $1.9m in fresh product.
Almost half went to the UK.
In comparison, the same data set shows Australia exported about USD $5.7 million worth.
“I don’t think Ireland is a threat to Australian beef but it’s more the case that they are an additional competitor in the market,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.
“One must also consider that the China market is growing.
“Since all these additional countries have gained access to China our exports continue to remain strong.
“While not as high as 2013, which was a record year, they did increase last year and for the first three months of this year they are ahead of where they were in the first three months of 2013, so we are potentially looking at a strong 2018.”
Meat and Livestock Australia’s latest China snapshot showed Australia’s share of direct imports sats at 17 per cent at the end of last year.
Due to its population size, growing wealth and shifting diets, China represents an attractive market for premium Australian beef products, according to MLA.