Irish beef is being allowed into China, the Agriculture Minister has confirmed.
Michael Creed says after years of hard work, the Chinese authorities will this week confirm access for Irish beef exports.
He said China will 'list a number of our beef establishments' for approval in the next few days, with hopes that other companies will also be approved shortly.
It's understood at least three beef factories here have been fully approved, and are the first European beef processors to gain access there.
#Breaking Irish Beef to China: After several years of hard work by many I'm delighted to announce that the Chinese authorities will this week confirm access for Irish Beef exports to China! pic.twitter.com/iBwP6v4f37
— Michael Creed TD (@creedcnw) April 16, 2018
China banned beef from the EU and US during the BSE crisis in 2000.
The ban was officially lifted three years ago, but negotiations to begin trade have been continuing since.
China is Ireland's third largest market, and last year our agri-food exports there were worth nearly €1 billion.
In a statement, Minister Creed praised officials and agencies involved in the negotiations with the Chinese government - saying the process was a 'huge effort'.
He said: "The opening of this key market presents an excellent opportunity for the Irish beef sector, from farmers through to processors [...] Opening and developing new markets is also a key part of our response to the uncertainties arising from Brexit.
"For beef, the door has now been opened and there is a real opportunity for the industry to build on this. I will lead a trade mission to China next month to further build on our trade relationships and continue our dialogue with the Chinese Government."
Representatives of the meat and agriculture industries have welcomed the news.
Irish Farmers' Association President Joe Healy said: “This is positive news for the Irish beef sector and as the Minister has said, the key issue for Irish farmers is that it will deliver a higher margin and price back to them”.
Meat Industry Ireland Director Cormac Healy said it was an 'important breakthrough', adding: "We now understand that the way is clear for the first three beef processing plants to commence exports of frozen beef to China. We would expect that this first group of plants will be in a position to commence trade with China in the very near future."
The Department of Agriculture says it will complete 'final technicalities' shortly, allowing beef trade to get under way in the coming weeks.