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Bord Bia embarks on first post-Covid-19 trade mission to China

Date: 15/05/2023

  • Minister McConalogue to lead bi-lateral meetings in Beijing
  • 14 Irish companies exhibiting at SIAL trade show in Shanghai
  • Bord Bia launches EU meat and dairy campaigns in Beijing and Shanghai

Dublin, May 15th 2023: Bord Bia will host 14 Irish exporters on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s trade mission to China this week. It is the first trade mission since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, following three years of restricted borders.

The focus of the trade mission, led by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD,is about raising the profile of Irish food and drink with customers in Beijing and Shanghai through a series of events, and supporting the 14 Irish meat and dairy companies representing Ireland at SIAL, the largest food and drink trade show in China.

Speaking ahead of the trade mission, Minister McConalogue said: “With the resumption of Irish beef exports to the market this is an excellent opportunity to further promote the sector in China and to communicate Ireland’s grassfed and premium farming credentials for both meat and dairy.

“It is timely that it is our first trip to China in three years as it comes amid an improved economic outlook plus a growing demand for value-added dairy ingredients to complement the fast-growing Chinese dairy sector. Bord Bia does a tremendous job promoting our word-class food and drink at home and abroad and I know it will help drive further added-value activity in China.”

In 2022 total agri-food exports to China[1] were valued at €722[2] million, of which €683 million represented food and drink. This positions China as Ireland’s sixth largest trade destination for food and drink by value, accounting for 4% of all exports.

Bord Bia CEO Jim O’Toole said that in addition to the positive economic drivers, there are a range of consumer trends and changing behaviours in the Chinese market that are driving opportunities for Irish exports.

“China has one of the largest populations in the world and its GDP per capita has increased tenfold in the last 20 years, making it the world’s second largest economy today,” he said. “A growing middle class with high disposable incomes in Chinese cities is creating an aspirational consumer base, with an increasing interest in premium food products and access to sophisticated digital retail platforms. Irish exporters are ideally placed to service these consumer demands, as Ireland’s focus on sustainably produced high-quality food and drink exports, backed by the Origin Green programme, offers the perfect solution to this growing Chinese market.”

The trade mission will begin in Beijing on May 15th with bilateral government meetings between Irish and Chinese officials, while Bord Bia facilitates a series of meetings with customers of Irish food and drink. A major focus of the trip will be on the upcoming promotion of Irish beef and pigmeat across China in both retail – online and instore – and foodservice channels. The visit will also include an EU meat trade seminar in Shanghai and a chef masterclass in Beijing. Both events will bring together two of Bord Bia’s EU co-funded campaigns – European Beef and Lamb – Ireland, working with nature and European Pork and Poultry – Excellence in Food Safety and Quality Assurance.  

Irish dairy exports to China have grown significantly over the last decade, driven by demand for imported branded infant formula. In recent years import demand in this category has declined as Chinese consumers have increasingly chosen domestically manufactured brands.  At the same time there is growing ageing demographic in China. By 2035, an estimated 400 million people in China will be age 60 and over, representing 30% of the population. As a result, an increased focus on health and wellness is creating opportunities for imported ingredients to service Chinese manufacturers' needs in the categories of sports nutrition, adult nutrition and food for special medical purposes. Ireland’s dairy industry has strong capability in this field.

To support the dairy sector, Bord Bia is hosting a dairy seminar to connect Irish dairy companies with market customers in an effort to better understand individual market and consumer needs. The Irish Dairy Industry Development Seminar – partnering with China for a sustainable future will also provide insights for Irish companies around technology and innovation in China, new product applications, market trends and opportunities for the industry in coming years. This seminar will be followed with a business introductions event with over 80 meetings scheduled with potential local partners for the travelling Irish delegation.

In Shanghai, the delegation will attend SIAL, the largest food and drink trade show in China, where nine meat and five dairy companies from Ireland will be exhibiting across three booths – the Ireland pavilion, the European Pork & Poultry, and European Beef & Lamb stands. The trade mission activity at SIAL will focus on key customer meetings, launches for new Irish dairy products in the market, and retail and foodservice exploration tours.

And finally, there will be a focus on the seafood and drink industry. With Irish whiskey exports to mainland China growing almost sevenfold from 2018-2022, Bord Bia will aim to leverage this momentum by hosting an Irish whiskey masterclass in Shanghai to educate the bar trade on the Irish whiskey category. This masterclass will enable influential bartenders to become ambassadors of Irish whiskey in China and increase bar listings for Irish companies, who are consistently entering the market.  

Similarly, Bord Bia will host a Seafood from Ireland master chef event, also in Shanghai, which will see top chefs create various dishes using Irish seafood.


[1] Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan

[2] €722 million represents a 76% increase over the last decade, according to CSO trade statistics. CSO trade statistics include non-edible products such as forestry, which are not included in Bord Bia statistics.